11 May 2020 – No professional sport, even behind closed doors, will be staged in England until 1 June at the earliest, the UK government has announced.
The government has published a 50-page guidance document detailing how England will begin to ease lockdown measures.
Step two of that plan – which will not be allowed to start before 1 June – includes “permitting cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors for broadcast, while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact”.
The document states that reopening venues that attract large crowds, such as sports grounds, “may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections”.
Premier League clubs are meeting on Monday to continue discussions on Project Restart.
The top flight has been suspended since 13 March because of the coronavirus pandemic but is aiming to resume in June, with 92 of its 380 fixtures left to play.
There will be no cricket played in England and Wales until at least 1 July, following a decision by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
British horse racing had hoped to resume behind closed doors later this month, having been on hold since 17 March.
Premiership Rugby is aiming for a resumption in early July, with nine rounds of matches remaining.
Formula 1 is hoping to race at Silverstone on 19 and 26 July.
Under proposed rules for boxing to resume behind closed doors in July, fighters at British shows will wear protective masks during ring walks and could be banned from using a spit bucket between rounds.
The government’s current aim is to introduce step two of its plan on 1 June but only if sufficient progress is made in “successfully controlling the spread of the virus” and the lifting of restrictions could be delayed.
Sporting events involving international travel could be affected by the government’s planned requirement for all international arrivals “not on a short list of exemptions” to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival in the UK.
Four English teams remain in European football competitions this year – Chelsea and Manchester City in the Champions League and Manchester United and Wolves in the Europa League.
F1 bosses are in talks with the government seeking an exemption for staff from the planned rules on international arrivals.
Do we know when fans will be able to return?
It is unclear when spectators may be able to attend sporting events again.
Under step three of the plan, which will not start until 4 July at earliest, the government is aiming to reopen some of the remaining businesses that have been forced to close, including hospitality and leisure facilities.
However, it adds: “Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to reopen safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.
“In order to facilitate the fastest possible reopening of these types of higher-risk businesses and public places, the government will carefully phase and pilot reopenings to test their ability to adopt the new Covid-19 secure guidelines.
“The government will also monitor carefully the effects of reopening other similar establishments elsewhere in the world, as this happens.”
The document also states that “only the development of a vaccine or effective drugs can reliably control this epidemic and reduce mortality without some form of social distancing or contact tracing in place.”
What about recreational sport?
From Wednesday, people in England may exercise outside as many times as they wish, though playgrounds, outdoor gyms and ticketed outdoor leisure venues will remain closed.
They will also be allowed to meet one person from outside their household as long as they stay outdoors and stay two metres apart.
So one-on-one sport with someone from outside your household, such as tennis or cricket nets, will be allowed provided participants adhere to social distancing rules.
However, team sports are not permitted, except with members of your own household.
The Lawn Tennis Association said that following clarifications from the government, tennis activity will resume outdoors in England from Wednesday with “singles play only” unless all players are from the same household “in which case they can play doubles”.
Golf courses in England will reopen on Wednesday but only for solo play or for groups from the same household.
“Golf clubs and golfers have observed the lockdown very well and must keep it up and act responsibly as play resumes,” said England Golf.
Facilities such as tennis courts and golf courses will remain closed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.