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‘We have to look at sporting events with caution’ - return of fans to football paused due to coronavirus surge

PUBLISHED: 09:18 22 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:05 22 September 2020

Ipswich Town had hoped to welcome fans back to Portman Road this weekend Picture: STEVE WALLER

Ipswich Town had hoped to welcome fans back to Portman Road this weekend Picture: STEVE WALLER

Steve Waller

The return of fans to football games and other sports will be paused due to the rising number of coronavirus cases, it has been confirmed.

Fans can have cardboard cut-outs at Portman Road if they wish - and it seems that's as close as they'll get to returning in the near future Picture: STEVE WALLERFans can have cardboard cut-outs at Portman Road if they wish - and it seems that's as close as they'll get to returning in the near future Picture: STEVE WALLER

Last weekend, up to 1,000 fans attended eight EFL games across the country – including Norwich’s clash with Preston – as part of pilot events to get supporters back into stadiums and watching live sport.

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Table-topping Ipswich Town had hoped to welcome fans back to Portman Road this Saturday as Rochdale visit, and were in the process of applying for permission to do so.

But the rising tide of Covid-19 cases means that the Government will pause plans to get fans back to sport.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast: “It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning.

“It wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans, we’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme.

“But what we do want to do is to make sure is that as and when circumstances allow get more people back.

“We have to look at sporting events with caution.”

Gove added: “We also recognise that sport’s a vital part of the life of the nation and we’re looking at everything we can do to support our athletes and our great clubs at what is a challenging time.

“We have been piloting some open-air venues and we do want people to be watching sport.

“It is the case that we need to be cautious at the moment. A mass reopening would not be appropriate at the moment. We do need to proceed with caution.”

The UK’s chief medical officers recommended on Monday that the Covid-19 alert level should be moved from three to four, which means the transmission of the virus is “high or rising exponentially”.

MORE: On this day in Ipswich Town’s history: going goal crazy against the Sky Blues on Sky TV

Ipswich is actually due to be hosting a pilot event on Saturday anyway - the British Speedway Final at Foxhall Stadium. It’s not clear how or if the new rules and restrictions will affect that.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to address the nation tonight and bring in, among other things, new restrictions which mean that pubs must close at 10pm.

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Gove also said people should now work from home if they can, in efforts to “restrain” social mixing as much as possible.

“If people can work from home, they should,” he told BBC Breakfast.

It’s expected that the new restrictions and advice will last for six months.


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