UK COVID-19 Plan: No Professional Sports Until June 1

  • 50-page government document requires certain goals to be met before sports can resume
  • Professional sports will not have fans in attendance
  • Premier League soccer clubs to meet Monday to discuss options
  • Other UK sports leagues have target dates from May to July
Empty blue and yellow stadium seats
The UK government announced Monday as part of a broader plan to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic that professional sports cannot restart until at least June 1. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Government guidelines released

The UK government released an extensive document on Monday detailing the steps required to ease out of the lockdown that has been necessary because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The second stage of “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy” is the reopening of sporting events, but they will not be able to take off until June 1 at the earliest.

unlikely that fans will be allowed to be in attendance until the beginning of next year

The guidance specifies that even if professional sports contests do get underway, they will need to take place “behind closed doors for broadcast.” In other words, they can be televised, but no spectators will be permitted. It is unlikely that fans will be allowed to be in attendance until the beginning of next year at the earliest.

The UK has been hit hard by coronavirus. It has the third-most confirmed infections in the world with 223,060, behind the United States and Spain. It ranks an unfortunate second in confirmed deaths with 32,065, behind only the U.S.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself tested positive for COVID-19 and was hospitalized for about a week, spending several days in the intensive care unit.

All eyes on Premier League

Premier League soccer clubs are meeting on Monday to talk about their future plans, called “Project Restart.” The league has been shut down since March 13. There are 92 matches remaining in the suspended season, with Liverpool just two games away from their first title in 30 years.

The league hopes to pick things up again in mid-June, but there is still disagreement among clubs as to how to best go about resuming play. Money is a major factor; Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, estimated that the entire league could lose £1bn if the season does not finish.

Of course, there is concern about the health and safety of players and staff. Some clubs would rather be slow in returning to action to ensure things are done right, rather than make mistakes, take unnecessary risks, and then have more problems down the road. Cost could be an issue, though, as thorough virus testing could come with a £30,000 ($37,000) weekly price tag.

Part of Project Restart includes playing the remaining matches at neutral sites. Clubs at the bottom of the standings are against this, while others believe those clubs are just trying to delay solutions until the May 25 deadline to make decisions has passed.

Other sports have target dates

While the Premier League is the headliner, every sport has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The England and Wales Cricket Board has already decided that cricket won’t be happening until at least July 1. Horse racing in the UK has been shut down since mid-March, but races might resume later this month without crowds. Premiership Rugby wants to restart in early July.

Boxers will be required to wear masks during ring walks

Boxing could also resume in July and though precautions during fights are nearly impossible, some restrictions will be put on fighters. Boxers will be required to wear masks during ring walks and it is possible that spit buckets could be forbidden between rounds.

Some sports elsewhere in the world have resumed, though without fans in the seats. UFC 249 was held Saturday night in Jacksonville, Florida. The UFC said all fighters were tested for COVID-19; Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza tested positive and was not permitted to fight.

The Korean Baseball Organization has been playing games, as well, with some games broadcast on American television.