Professional sport won’t return in UK until 1 June at earliest

Published on: May 12, 2020
Author: Jamie Clark
Professional sport in the UK cannot return until 1 June

No professional sport in the UK will happen before 1 June at the earliest following a British government announcement.

When allowed to resume, it will all take place behind closed doors. "Avoiding the risk of large-scale social contact" while providing "a much-needed boost to national morale" is the aim.

A hot topic in the 50-page government document released, professional sport will likely remain without crowds for some time.

Reopening sports venues – racecourses, football stadiums, cricket grounds, etc – to the public "may only be fully possible significantly later".

Any return behind closed doors is conditional. It depends on further progress.

Recreational sport has different treatment, however. Provided social distancing is observed, one-on-one activities such as tennis and golf can happen.

Golf courses in England will reopen on Wednesday. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) permits doubles play from them with other members of your household.

The latest plans for professional sport

Premier League clubs remain in talks over Project Restart, but there are objections to completing the remaining fixtures at neutral venues.

Although noted and passed on to the authorities, the "curtailment" of the season was among discussions.

Lucrative broadcast rights agreements both within the UK and abroad could result in repayments. These may amount to £342,000,000 in refunded revenue taken out of Premier League football.

Remaining matches aren’t taking place as expected, namely at different times to the usual schedule and without fans.

A "really strong collective will" still exists to complete the Premier League season, however.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), meanwhile, suspended professional sport in all forms of the game until 1 July.

That is the same date that Premiership Rugby (Union) is looking to resume competition on.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) welcomed the government timeline, and is now planning for a return on 1 June.

Their previous provisional ideas for getting the Flat horse racing season up and running will need modifying, however.

Proposals for boxing shows returning in July include fighters wearing face masks to the ring.

Formula 1 still hopes to have motor racing at Silverstone on the weekends ending 19 and 26 July.

International arrivals not exempt from quarantine

As and when professional sport does return in the UK, there is still the thorny issue of international competition.

Teams and players travelling in to Britain will not at this stage be granted exemptions from 14-day self-isolation rules.

If this stance does not change, then multinational competitions such as the Pro 14 and Champions Cup rugby and UEFA Champions League and Europa League football become complicated.

Knockout phase ties in the latter have two legs to them. There are also rules in the countries where British sports teams travel for away games to consider too.

Chelsea and Manchester City remain active participants in the Champions League, with Manchester United and Wolves in the Europa League.

Three English sides remain in the Champions Cup rugby – Saracens, Northampton Saints and Exeter Chiefs. The latter pair play one another in the quarter-finals