Football fans face long wait to return to stadiums as coronavirus rates rise

Football fans will be locked out of grounds until the coronavirus infection rates start to fall dramatically – Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has revealed.

And Dowden has called on BT Sport to make the Merseyside derby free to air this weekend to prevent households mixing in Liverpool which was locked down further this week.

The cabinet minister in charge of sport insisted he wants fans back as quickly as possible and understands the “frustration” of supporters – but it won't be this month and could take much longer.

But fans being allowed in to elite games is dependent on infection rates – which has been soaring in the last fortnight – starting to fall.

While pubs and the hospitality trade face another shut down this week in the North where coronavirus is spreading rapidly, the “scientific community” have advised against fans being allowed back.

Get the latest news straight into your inbox!

It has been a hectic season so far – so make sure you don't miss a single thing by signing up for the brilliant new Mirror Football newsletter!

All the latest transfer news and big stories will land straight into your inbox. You won't miss out.

To sign up, put your email at the top of this article or follow the instructions on this link.

Dowden was quizzed by the DCMS committee on Wednesday morning and said this morning: “Yes of course I accept people's frustration at the inconsistency there. The simple reason is, we had sports on a path to return to normality. We were one of the first in the world to achieve football back and being played behind closed doors.

“The next phase was pilot games with social distanced spectators in stadia. I desperately wanted that to happen (go further than the pilots).

“Because of where we are with the rapid rise we have not been able to have that. The advice from the scientific community is that we should be imposing restrictions not further easing.

“We were ready to go. They were successful. We were ready to go from Oct 1. We had to pause it because of the rapid expansion of the disease. It is not just the stadium. It is the journey, people want to have something to eat on the way. That's not to say that can't be mitigated.

“We'd be increasing social interaction while imposing further restrictions.

“I want to rapidly return to this decision.We are ready to go when we get the starting gun fired

“We got PL and Championship up and running early on and got money back in the sport because of that."

Dowden was asked about the inconsistency in policy with the London Palladium hosting an indoor talk in with Arsene Wenger but no one allowed into the Emirates Stadium or others.

The Royal Albert Hall is also being allowed to hold an indoor concert for 3,500 people in December, while football fans can't stand outdoors to watch their team.

The O2 arena in London is set to host a concert featuring Squeeze, but the ATP finals tennis tournament is scheduled to be behind closed doors at the same venue next month.

Dowden said: “I don't want to be stopping fans from going into stadiums but the reason we are doing it is for public safety from COVID. We have had to pause it because of where we are with the disease."

Asked about the Mersey derby not being free to air, Dowden said it would be a good gesture to make it free for fans in the city. He said: “If BT were able to do that as a gesture that would be great of course.”

Source: Read Full Article