Boris Johnson says Government working to get sporting crowds back ‘as soon as possible’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says his Government is working to get crowds back into venues “as soon as possible”.

Reports emerged on Tuesday evening the Government was exploring the possibility of spectators being allowed into venues by Christmas in areas with the lowest coronavirus infection rates.

He was reported to have privately told MPs that reopening sports grounds was a “personal priority”, but did not give any specifics on the issue when the matter was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

“I understand the frustration over fans and we hope to get crowds back in the ground as soon as possible,” he said in answer to a question from Karl McCartney, the Conservative MP for Lincoln.

Barring two successful trial events at Doncaster and Warwick in September, racing has been staged behind closed doors since the sport resumed on June 1 following the first Covid-19 lockdown.

An initial test event at Goodwood at the beginning of August was called off at the 11th hour, while Doncaster’s trial was cut from a planned four days to one after the local authority intervened due to fears over rising infection rates.

Newmarket also had its plans to welcome a limited number of spectators to the Cambridgeshire meeting called off in September.

The British Horseracing Authority said it is awaiting “further clarity” from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the issue of crowds.

A BHA spokesperson said: “We remain in ongoing liaison with DCMS regarding the return of spectators to sporting events, both through direct routes and racing’s seat on the ‘major sports’ group which supports the work of the Sports Technology and Innovation Group.

“We are currently awaiting further clarity from DCMS on the situation, though we are of course aware that this will be a cross-Governmental decision.”

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