Coronavirus: Boris Johnson says no fans will be allowed at pilot sporting test events from Saturday

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said no fans will be allowed at the sporting test events from Saturday for two weeks following a spike in coronavirus cases.

The announcement means no fans will be allowed at the horse racing in Goodwood, the two Bob Willis Trophy matches at the Kia Oval and Edgbaston, and the Crucible theatre for the World Snooker Championships from Saturday.

The government had announced the pilots to stress-test its guidance on the return of fans to elite sports events.

The Prime Minister said planned re-openings for August 1 will be postponed for a fortnight.

The government has informed racing’s leaders in the past hour that it has withdrawn permission for a pilot event involving customers, to proceed at Goodwood tomorrow.

The racing on Sat 1 August will continue behind closed doors as it has on the previous four days of the meeting

The U-turn will affect racegoers who had planned to attend the final day of the Goodwood Festival.

The Sussex Downs were due to welcome a crowd of 5,000 on Saturday, which would have been the first time racegoers have been allowed on a racecourse since March.

Boris Johnson told a Downing Street briefing: “With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should squeeze that brake pedal… in order to keep the virus under control.

“On Saturday August 1, you’ll remember we had hoped to reopen a number of the higher-risk settings that had remained closed and today I’m saying we’re postponing those changes for at least a fortnight.

“That means until August 15 at the earliest casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and the remaining close-contact services must remain closed.

“Indoor performances will not resume, pilots of larger gatherings in sports venues and conference centres will not take place, and wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be permitted.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden MP tweeted that the government will be working for a “safe return ASAP” for fans.

PM statement

Very disappointing news that with rise in infection rates we cannot press ahead with sports pilots with fans this weekend

I know the huge efforts cricket, snooker & horseracing have made to welcome fans back

We’ll keep working together on their safe return asap

A spokesperson for the ECB said: “We understand this is disappointing for supporters who have waited a long time to see their clubs in action and were looking forward to attending pilot events at the Kia Oval and Edgbaston this weekend.

“However, 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 World Snooker Championships was the only indoor event among the three pilots.

The government’s plans to allow fans inside the Crucible theatre had been criticised by five-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and qualifier Anthony Hamilton.

O’Sullivan said earlier this week the players were being treated like “lab rats” and claimed anyone unconcerned by the decision to allow some spectators into the event must have a “death wish”.

Hamilton, a 49-year-old qualifier who suffers from asthma, had withdrawn from the tournament after describing the decision to allow a limited audience as “ridiculous”.

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