The Premier League could resume behind closed doors as early as June 1 after the Government gave the green light to restart the season.
A 60-page roadmap was unveiled by the Government on Monday afternoon in which various protocols were outlined including the return of professional sport.
And, as part of his plan to bring the UK out of lockdown, Boris Johnson has stated that sport will be permitted to be broadcast from behind closed doors from the start of next month at the earliest.
Under phase two of the Prime Minister’s coronavirus plan, which cannot begin any earlier than June 1, the document confirms they will allow “cultural and sporting events to take place behind-closed-doors for broadcast while avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact.”
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The news is a welcome boost for the Premier League, who held a meeting with their 20 clubs on Monday but, when the news of the Government’s plan emerged, there was no comment from the top flight.
A return to action will only be possible though if sufficient progress is made in limiting the spread of the virus between now and then, but the document entitled ‘Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy’ says that “organisations should plan accordingly”.
It is less clear when supporters will be able to return to venues. The document talks about venues such as cinemas and hairdressers reopening in step three – no earlier than July 4 – but states: “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.
“Nevertheless the Government will wish to open as many businesses and public places as the data and information at the time allows.
“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 Government will establish a series of task forces to work closely with stakeholders in these sectors to develop ways in which they can make these businesses and public places COVID-19 Secure.”
Page 21 of the document warns that opening of venues such as sports stadia “may only be fully possible significantly later depending on the reduction in numbers of infections”.
Events involving international travel – such as football’s Champions League and Europa League, could be affected by the Government’s planned introduction of an enforced 14-day quarantine period for arrivals to the UK, except for those from countries “on a short list of exemptions”.
The Premier League’s clubs are meeting on Monday to continue their discussions around Project Restart. They had been planning for a return to action no earlier than the week beginning June 8.
There will be no top-level cricket in England or Wales until July 1 at the earliest, after a decision from the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The British Horseracing Authority had hoped under its “best-case scenario” planning to be back in action before the end of May, with two high-profile cards scheduled at the end of the month before the Guineas meeting at the beginning of June.