Brighton v Chelsea among test events for return of fans


London (AFP) – A Brighton v Chelsea friendly and Women’s Super League fixture are among a list of sporting events that will welcome a limited number of fans, the British government announced on Wednesday.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed a series of new events in England at which spectators would be admitted on a socially distanced basis following the ban on mass gatherings introduced in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The events, which cover football, rugby union, horse racing, cricket, basketball and speedway, will take place this month and in September.

A men’s pre-season friendly at Brighton on Saturday and a Women’s Super League match between West Ham and Arsenal on September 12 are among the pilot events.

Brighton later confirmed on their official website that they were making 2,500 tickets available for Chelsea’s visit.

The English Premiership rugby fixture between Harlequins and Bath at the Twickenham Stoop on September 5 has been selected, as have race meetings at Doncaster, Warwick and Newmarket.

Cricket matches in the Bob Willis Trophy and Twenty20 Blast are set for selection, with specific fixtures still to be confirmed.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “I know fans and their teams can’t wait to be reunited in stadia across the country, but it’s imperative we take a cautious and phased approach to get fans back in safely.

“I’m pleased that infection rates have levelled off enough to resume the pilot programme and we will continue to work intensively with sports, medical and health and safety experts towards welcoming more fans back as fast as we can.”

The plan remains for spectators to be allowed back into sports venues in limited numbers more widely from October 1 as part of the Covid-19 road map to recovery.

The pilot events were put on hold on July 31, which meant plans to allow spectators in on each day of the World Snooker Championship and for crowds to attend the Glorious Goodwood horseracing festival on August 1 had to be scrapped.

They were allowed back in for the conclusion of the snooker event on August 15 and 16.

However, proposals to allow Celtic’s home match against Motherwell on Sunday to go ahead with fans in the stadium have been rejected by the Scottish government.

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