Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says fans not allowed at sports pilot events as planned

Fans will not be allowed to attend the pilot sports events scheduled for this weekend in England after a spike in coronavirus cases, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Spectators were due to watch the first two days of two county cricket matches, while fans were at the World Snooker Championship when it started on Friday.

It was also hoped to permit 4,000 racegoers at Goodwood on Saturday.

The new restrictions on fans will be enforced until at least 15 August.

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The announcement comes after general restrictions were reintroduced for people in parts of northern England.

“Pilots of larger crowds at sports venues will not take place,” Johnson said at a news conference on Friday.

“I said from May we would not hesitate to put on the brakes at the slightest sign that the numbers were going in the wrong direction.”

The Prime Minister had earlier this month that spectators could be able to return to stadiums in England from October.

Two matches in cricket’s Bob Willis Trophy starting on Saturday had been due to welcome spectators – Surrey v Middlesex at the Oval and Warwickshire against Northamptonshire at Edgbaston.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said: “We understand the reasons the government has made this decision, and remain ready to work with them to ensure supporters can safely return to stadiums when government advice allows.

“We are pleased the Bob Willis Trophy will still begin this weekend behind closed doors, and fans will be able to watch their teams in action through the online streams being provided.”

The Oval had been due to host 2,500 fans on Saturday and Sunday, having held the first pilot last weekend of 1,000 fans.

Surrey chief executive, Richard Gould, said: “A lot of hard work has taken place to ensure that members and fans could return to our ground safely.

“We still hope to welcome members to the ground for future matches this summer, and we will continue to work with the ECB and the government to encourage this to happen.”

A statement from Goodwood racecourse said: “We are very disappointed for those who were hoping to attend tomorrow’s event and for all those who have worked so hard to make it possible for spectators to be present.

“We will engage with public health authorities and the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) over a rescheduled pilot at the earliest opportunity.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden posted on social media that it was “very disappointing news”.

“I know the huge efforts cricket, snooker & horseracing have made to welcome fans back. We’ll keep working together on their safe return ASAP,” he added.

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