Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that football fans will not return from October 1 after announcing new lockdown measures in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
It had been hoped that Sky Blues fans and supporters of other clubs up and down the country could return to limited-capacity football stadiums from the start of next month, with grounds being 25 to 33% full.
However, tighter restrictions due to a spike in Covid-19 cases have resulted in those plans being pushed back – potentially by six months.
That would mean matches continuing to be played behind closed doors until March, at least, unless “significant progress” is made.
“On reopening sporting events, we will not be able to do this from 1 October,” Johnson told the House of Commons.
“We will have to extend the ‘rule of six’ to all adult indoor team sports.
“Unless we make significant progress, these restrictions will be in place for six months.”
Government minister Michael Gove had earlier told BBC News: “It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning.
“It wasn’t the case that we’d have stadiums thronged with fans.
“We’re looking for the moment at how we can pause that programme.
“What we do want to do is ensure that, as and when circumstances allow, we get more people back because the virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors.
“But, again, it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling.
“People look back at the beginning of the pandemic and look at some of the major sporting events asking the question of why they were allowed to go ahead.
“One of the things we must do now, whatever the wisdom of the decisions made then, is to look at sporting events now with caution.
“We also recognise sport is a vital part of this nation and we’re looking at everything we can do to support our athletes and clubs through what will be a challenging time.”
A report in the Times claims sport leaders foresaw the announcement coming and have asked the prime minister for a £15billion rescue package – similar to that announced in July for the arts and culture sector.
A coalition of 100 sport bodies, including the Football Association, Rugby Football Association, England and Wales cricket board, Lawn Tennis Association, Rugby Football League and many more have written to the prime minister asking for financial support.
According to the report, the letter says: “To play our fullest role, we must survive and stabilise. To do this, we require a comprehensive support package for the sport and physical sector to aid its recovery. This package must combine investment, tax incentives and regulatory reform.”