The sporting ‘crown jewels’ of the English summer are under pressure to significantly increase attendances after the Prime Minister insisted he was ‘very positive’ about ending social distancing.
A leading public health scientist joined industry insiders in urging Wimbledon and other events to abandon their “overly conservative” plans in Boris Johnson’s optimistic assessment.
Twickenham and Wembley aim to be at least half full by July. And after the Government officially approved plans for the return of 10,000 spectators from Monday, Tuesday’s R&A became the latest sporting authority to become increasingly confident a “significant” number of spectators will be allowed to attend the Open Championship in July, down to 120,000 possible after the prime minister said the return of the sporting crowds was firmly on track.
However, other events are more cautious. The All England Club is currently limited to 25 per cent capacity, despite starting a week after the Government lifted most restrictions.
Professor Robert Dingwall, a public health expert at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences, suggested Wimbledon should allow for attendances of up to 70 per cent.
He described current plans in racing and tennis as “too conservative and inflexible,” he said The Telegraph Governing bodies should feel encouraged. “There is broad scientific consensus that there is next to no risk outdoors that any scientist will ever commit to unless spending extended periods of time in a very crowded space with restricted air movement,” he added.
“With that in mind, I would have thought that large outdoor sports venues could be considered on a case-by-case basis – there aren’t that many of them. Where you have a high percentage of spectators in open areas, which would be true for large areas.’ For most racecourses or the outdoor courts at Wimbledon I would have thought you could have a high percentage of normal capacity – maybe 60-70 per cent instead of 25 per cent .”
The All England Club have said they are flexible in their arrangements and insiders believe larger percentages for Center Court and No1 are all but certain by the end of the fortnight.
Royal Ascot could be granted an exemption for 10,000 fans
Royal Ascot is poised to see a significant increase in viewership over the next month. High-level talks are taking place between Whitehall and racing regulators, with growing hope that the sport’s “overly conservative” 4,000 limit can be relaxed.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, Ascot had expressed hope that the number would at least increase to 10,000 for an event that often draws 60,000 a day. A 10,000 limit could be raised even further as part of a proposal being discussed within the sport to include the festival in the national events research program (ERP).
Whitehall has no immediate plans to add Ascot to its pilot program roster, but talks continue on the potential to increase attendance at the 179-acre site.
“Ascot could probably hold 80,000 — 4,000 is that small,” said Sam Hoskins, a racehorse syndicate manager who runs both Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds and Hot To Trot Racing. “We need the authorities to see that one size doesn’t fit all. I just hope some discretion can be used because a lot of these big racecourses are very safe places.”
The Premier League is focused on next season
The Premier League, meanwhile, continues to work hard to guarantee full venues by the start of next season. Richard Masters, the league’s chief executive, said 10,000 in the final two rounds of the campaign would “ensure a fantastic finale through to the end of our season”, but he added: “We will continue to work with government and other authorities as our priority.” is to have full and lively stadiums – including visiting fans – from the start of next season. Only then will we get back to the real Premier League.”
When stadiums were finally given the green light to reopen in greater numbers than they had been in 14 months, Big Six club owners were blamed for failing to learn lessons from the European Super League fiasco.
Fans made a sharp distinction between Burnley, who are giving away more than 3,000 tickets for free, and Tottenham Hotspur, who have set a £60 price range for their only home game against Aston Villa.
Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association, said The Telegraph: “In general, I’m not surprised that Burnley is doing anything decent – and I’m not surprised that the greedy six might not be doing anything decent. We would welcome any club that recognizes the sacrifices the fans have made along with everyone else.”
Rugby union is also pushing to increase viewership in hopes that England’s games against the USA and Canada on July 4 and 10 will be watched by a half-full Twickenham.
Government confirmation that the nation is on track in its roadmap out of lockdown confirmed plans, which were first laid out on February 22. “We will unlock the turnstiles of our sports stadiums, subject to capacity limits,” confirmed the Prime Minister. Significantly higher viewer numbers are expected from June 21st.
“I’m optimistic that things will get much closer to normality, let me put it that way,” Mr Johnson said as he pressed for more details. “By the end of this month, you’ll be hearing a lot more about exactly what the world will be like after June 21st. At the moment I’m very positive, but we have to let the data guide us.”
Government crowd pilots continue on Saturday when 22,000 people attend the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Leicester at Wembley Stadium. It turns out the Duke of Cambridge will be in attendance to present the trophy to the winners.
However, despite yesterday’s optimistic assessment from scientists and politicians, only one in four plan to attend football matches or music concerts once restrictions allow, according to a survey. The survey, conducted by Yonder on behalf of leading Covid-19 testing company Cignpost ExpressTest, found around half would return to events if measures such as PCR testing, reduced capacity and social distancing were in place.
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2021/05/11/sports-crown-jewels-told-ramp-crowd-numbers-government-gives/ Sport’s ‘crown jewels’ told to ramp up crowd numbers after Government gives green light