How lockdown easing measures affect each major sport
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Sport can begin to plan for the return of fans in the coming months under the 'road map' for easing lockdown restrictions, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday.
Here we take a look at how the news will affect the major sports in England.
The target of May 17 for allowing at least some fans back into stadiums comes a week before the final day of the Premier League of May 23 - great news for the 10 clubs due to be at home, although others must hope to host test events the previous weekend.
The FA Cup final is slated for May 15 and the Championship, League One and League Two seasons wrap up on May 9, but fans could be back for the play-off finals at the end of the month.
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The target of June 21 to lift all restrictions comes midway through the rearranged Euro 2020 finals, and the day before England are due to face the Czech Republic at Wembley. The national stadium is due to host the final of the tournament on July 11.
Meanwhile, the FA released the following statement with regards to grassroots football.
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"We can look forward to the safe return of grassroots football from 29 March for both adults and children.
“With this new clarity around timings, we will continue to work with Government on plans for a safe return for grassroots football across England and will communicate updated guidance as soon as we can.
“We can also confirm that the 2020-21 grassroots season has been extended until the end of June in order to provide additional flexibility and time for leagues to complete their fixtures this season if they wish to do so.
“Please note: the extension does not apply to the National League System (NLS) Steps 3-6, Regional NLS Feeder Leagues and the Women’s Football Pyramid from Tier 3 and below, including County Leagues at Tier 7, as the process to determine the preferred route forward for these competitions is currently ongoing. We will provide a further update on this in due course.”
England begin a two-Test series against New Zealand on June 2 and will now hope to have a number of fans at both Lord's and Edgbaston. The stands could then be full when they begin a white-ball series against Sri Lanka, with a T20 international in Cardiff on June 23.
The target of March 29 for grassroots sport is also good news for the game at local level. An ECB statement read: "The ECB welcomes the Government's decision to permit grassroots cricket to return across England in time for the start of the 2021 season. We will continue to work closely with the Welsh Government on the return of recreational cricket in Wales."
Clubs could welcome fans for the final rounds of the Premiership season, which concludes on June 12, although it is much too late for the PRO14 campaign. The British & Irish Lions are due to host Japan at Murrayfield on June 26 - a warm-up for their tour of South Africa, although the status of that trip remains in doubt.
Meanwhile, the RFU has welcomed the return of the game at grassroots level from the end of the March.
“The Rugby Football Union (RFU) welcomes the announcement by the Prime Minister that grassroots team sports including community rugby can return from 29 March and the start of fans returning to stadiums from May.
“This is good news for the game and for players, coaches and volunteers across the country, who will once again be able to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of being involved in team sport.
“We will work with DCMS on the Covid protocols for the community game, including the format of rugby that will be permitted in return to play. We also look forward to working with Government and other sports on the safe return of fans to stadiums.
The easing of restrictions will come too soon for the British Masters in mid-May, but fans can look forward to attending the Open Championship at Royal St George in July.
As for people returning to courses for their own game England Golf would have preferred to see an earlier date set.
“England Golf is extremely disappointed that the scientific evidence presented to government detailing how the sport can be played in a Covid-secure manner has not resulted in a return to play date earlier than 29 March.
“We will now examine the details of the government’s roadmap before making further comment and working with our community of clubs, counties and golfers to prepare for the game’s safe return.”
The target of June 21 for all restrictions to be lifted could hardly be better timed for Wimbledon, due to begin a week later on June 28. This staple of the British sporting summer was cancelled entirely last year but could now be one of the symbols of a return to normality in the months ahead.
The LTA also welcomed the return of the sport at grassroots level but continued to argue for an earlier date. "Clearly tennis is a naturally socially-distanced and safe activity and so we would have liked restrictions to be lifted without delay and made the case for this," a statement read.
It appears the British Speedway season will be forced to start without fans attending. King’s Lynn Stars will therefore start their season behind-closed-doors on Monday, May 3 at Belle Vue before hosting Wolverhampton on Thursday, May 6.
Their first meeting where they could potentially have some fans attend is currently at home to Ipswich on Monday, May 17.
British speedway tweeted on Monday night: “Encouraging news this evening... Turnstiles at sporting venues to click again in May as part of the government roadmap to ending restrictions. Let’s go racing!”
England Athletics is hopeful that a return to competition will be able to take place after Match 29.
Their statement said: “We welcome the UK Government’s statement today [22 February] on an initial step towards the resumption of outdoor sport.
“We have been in regular dialogue with both Sport England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) during this period and, at the same time, scenario planning around the safe and progressive return of our sport ahead of the Prime Minister unveiling his plan for the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in England.
“We will now seek further clarity from Sport England and DCMS on the details contained within the UK Government’s roadmap and remain optimistic about the return on 29 March of athletics, running, training and other activity in clubs and groups and then for the safe return of competition and the sport more widely.
“As soon as we have more information, we will make an announcement on our website and through our social media channels.”
Bowls England are preparing for a normal 2021 outdoor season and hope their National Open Weekend can encourage more people into the sport.
Their statement said: “The roadmap for the easing of lockdown restrictions enables Bowls England, counties and affiliated clubs to prepare with confidence for the 2021 outdoor season. The Prime Minister’s announcement confirmed that outdoor affiliated bowls clubs will be able to open from 29 March.
“Our National Open Weekend (May 29-31) planning will continue and we believe there’s a good opportunity to encourage people, who are looking for a new fun, family outdoor activity, into our sport. We will be working with affiliated clubs who sign up to empower them to deliver Open Weekend events that are Covid-safe and give new players a fantastic first experience.”