Plans to allow spectators in England delayed

Fans in England will not be allowed to attend pilot sports events as planned this weekend until at least August 15, the British government announced on Friday.

A small number of sporting events have been chosen to pilot the safe return of spectators in October. Two cricket matches, a horse racing festival and the Snooker World Championships were expected to welcome reduced crowds this weekend, but those plans have been shelved due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in England.

“With those numbers creeping up, our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.

“On Saturday August 1, you’ll remember, we had hoped to reopen in England a number of higher risk settings that had remained closed. Today, I am afraid we are postponing these changes for at least a fortnight.”

“That means that until August 15 at the earliest: Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and remaining close contact services must remain closed. Indoor performances will not resume.”

“Pilots of larger crowds in sports venues and conference centers will not take place.”

The Snooker World Championships opened on Friday. Organizers confirmed later that fans at the Crucible for the rest of Friday would be able to watch the action live, but from Saturday the competition would be played behind closed doors.

All mass gatherings in the U.K. have been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while snooker, football, cricket and a few elite sport events resumed in June behind closed doors.