Culture secretary

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says test pilot events in sport help ‘unlock’ a sense of normalcy

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says pilot events such as the World Snooker Championship and FA Cup semi-finals will help ‘unlock’ a sense of normalcy and ‘pave the way for life to return as we knew it”.

  • Sports fans returned to the UK stadium over the current weekend
  • 320 fans attended Saturday’s World Snooker Championships match in Sheffield
  • 4,000 fans will attend Sunday’s FA Cup tie between Leicester and Southampton
  • Wembley will also host 8,000 spectators in the Carabao Cup final next week











Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden hopes this week’s pilot events for crowds returning to sport will ‘pave the way for a return to life as we knew it’.

Saturday’s opening day of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield was the first of a number of trials under the government-run Events Research Program (ERP), along with other events that will follow this week.

The ERP will test various methods with a view to identifying the safest and most effective ways to allow fans to return to sporting events in significant numbers from June 21.

Oliver Dowden says sporting pilot events this week are crucial step towards normal life

320 fans attended the World Snooker Championships at Sheffield's Crucible on Saturday

320 fans attended the World Snooker Championships at Sheffield’s Crucible on Saturday

There will be 4,000 fans at Wembley for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton, with 8,000 at next week’s Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham.

The Crucible’s capacity will be gradually increased subject to strict conditions, including the requirement that ticket holders undergo coronavirus testing before and after the event.

Dowden says the success of these pilot events will be a crucial step towards returning to normal life.

He wrote in a column for the Sunday Telegraph: “The World Snooker Championship is back in full force at the famous Crucible arena.

Dowden claims that opening the doors of The Crucible is the

Dowden says opening the doors of The Crucible is the ‘starting gun’ to a return to normalcy

This afternoon it will be joined by the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton at Wembley, as well as the Carabao Cup final next week – all playing in front of a crowd as the government launches a series of pilots to test the return of mass events.

“Together these pilots will put Covid-19 under the microscope. We are deploying the best of our UK universities and scientific expertise to safely examine the risk of transmission in a number of different settings: seated and non-seated; indoor and outdoor places.

“Over the past week, many of us have enjoyed our first delicious pint in the garden of the local pub or enjoyed a tasty – albeit cold – meal outside our favorite restaurant.

“We sat down with relief in the barber or barber chair and supported our local shops – browsing the rails or a bookstore in person for the first time in months.

There will be 4,000 fans at Sunday's FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton

There will be 4,000 fans at Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton

“But this is just a small slice of normal life. There are countless other things we still sorely miss: our theaters and cinemas, our concerts and festivals. A trip to a musical with our family or a day at football, surrounded by singing fans.

“These are the things that help build a lifetime of memories, adding much-needed color to our daily existence.

“These pilots will help unlock all of these things. In a few months, we hope that the World Snooker Championship and others will be the starting point, not only for a summer of fun, but for much more.

“Ultimately, they could pave the way for the return of life as we knew it.”

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