Published: 16:27, 22 February 2021
| Updated: 16:39, 22 February 2021
Spectators could be back at sporting events from the middle of May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.
That return comes too late for Gillingham fans, with the League 1 season ending on May 8 – assuming there are no play-off matches involving the Gills – but means spectators could watch Kent in cricket action before the end of May and there should also be a sizeable crowd at Royal St George’s for The Open, which runs from July 15-18.
Setting out his roadmap for the next few months, Mr Johnson confirmed that outdoor sports can resume from March 29 with gyms reopening no earlier than April 12.
From March 29 people will no longer legally be required to stay at home but many lockdown restrictions will stay in place.
Mr Johnson said: “Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts and open-air swimming pools will be able to re-open, and formally organised outdoor sports will resume subject to guidance.”
It also means the green light for golf and grassroots football to resume. The roadmap states that ‘organised outdoor sports for adults and under-18s can restart and will not be subject to the gathering limits, but should be compliant with guidance issues by national governing bodies’.
The second phase of the roadmap is no earlier than April 12 but sees indoor leisure facilities such as gyms reopen at the same time as hairdressers. Pubs and restaurants will also open outdoors at this stage.
The roadmap confirms ‘gyms and spas’ can reopen but not ‘saunas and steam rooms which are due to open at step 3’.
No earlier than May 17, the third stage will sees fans attend sporting venues once again, as pubs and restaurants can open indoors.
Mr Johnson said: “The turnstiles of our sports stadia will once again rotate subject in all cases to capacity limits, depending on the size of the venue.
“We will pilot larger events using enhanced testing with the ambition of further easing of restrictions in the next step.”
The finer details on the roadmap state: “Some large events, including conferences, theatre and concert performances and sports events. Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted, as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50% or 4,000 people, whichever is lower.
“The Government will also make a special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower. In addition, pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing.”
All of the above will still involve social distancing measures but the hope is that no earlier than June 21, at step 4, they can ‘remove all legal limits on social contact’.
There will be four reviews carried out by the government, including how long social distancing and facemasks need to remain in place and also one at a safe return to major events.
The roadmap states that: “DCMS and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy have been working with representatives from industry and civil society to explore when and how events with larger crowd sizes, less social distancing or in settings where transmission is more likely (i.e. indoors), will be able to return safely. This includes sports events, music festivals and large weddings and conferences.
“Over the spring the Government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes. The pilots will start in April.”
All the dates set for each step are subject to four tests being met as the Prime Minister takes a ‘data not dates’ approach to coming out of England’s third national lockdown.