The government have given the official green light to elite sport returning behind closed doors in England from 1 June.
Competitive sport has been shut down for almost three months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic with individual governing bodies subsequently in lengthy discussions over how and when to return to competition.
The new ‘stage three’ guidance, published on Saturday by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport after close consultation with the Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Public Health England and medical representatives across Olympic, Paralympic and professional sports governing bodies, will now see domestic competition permitted from Monday albeit with strict health and safety protocols in place.
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden described the announcement as “a significant moment for British sport”.
“The wait is over. Live British sport will shortly be back on in safe and carefully controlled environments,” he said.
“This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions behind closed doors. It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it’s right for them to restart.
“This is a significant moment for British sport. By working with clinicians every step of the way, we are creating the safest possible environments for everyone involved.”
One of the first major sporting events expected to go ahead under the new framework will be the 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket Racecourse on 6 June with others set to follow.
Premier League clubs have already agreed for the 2019/20 season to resume on 17 June with chief executive Richard Masters welcoming this latest stepping stone of a lengthy process.
“All major sports, including the Premier League, have been working together with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to produce this Stage Three protocol,” he said.
“We could not have reached this point without the full support of the government, especially DCMS, Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer’s team.
“We have provisionally planned to restart the Premier League on 17 June, but there is still much work to be done to ensure the safety of everyone involved. This includes consulting with our clubs, players and managers – along with all our other stakeholders – as the health and welfare of our participants and supporters is our priority.
“If all goes well, we will be thrilled to resume the 2019/20 season in just over two weeks’ time.”
In the Football League this latest step could well see the Championship follow the top flight and return the following weekend with further talks between parties scheduled this week.
League One and League Two are yet to decide how their respective seasons will be concluded with curtailment a possibility being actively discussed.
Cricket has its sights set on a return in July with England hoping to host the West Indies and Pakistan later this summer while Formula 1 want to host two grands prix at Silverstone as part of their rescheduled calendar although current quarantine measures are complicating matters.
A number of sports have returned to training in recent weeks following the guidance outlined in stages one and two earlier this month.
The government insist all relevant standards that were met there, including strict social distancing measures, use of personal protective equipment by staff members and regular testing, must still be satisfied for any sport or sporting event to progress to stage three.
This guidance intends to “minimise the risk to the elite sports community, while also minimising any pressure elite sport places on healthcare workers and the wider community.”
The announcement goes on to say that “like all changes to current measures it will be kept under review in accordance with the government’s Covid alert system.”
There is also an emphasis placed on making sport as accessible as possible with all competition remaining restricted to being behind closed doors without fans in attendance.
All 92 remaining Premier League matches will be broadcast live on television with four on the BBC and a further 25 made available free-to-air by Sky Sports with others sports likely to follow suit with similar steps of their own.