As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, sports events initially were cancelled en masse, before returning without crowds in attendance in the last month. It raises the possibility that only the first month of the 2020-21 football season will be played out behind closed doors, with supporters allowed back in the autumn.

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"We will pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadiums with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn," said Johnson on Friday.

From October, we intend to bring back audiences in stadiums.

"Again, these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots."

The Government has announced that a small number of sporting events will be used to pilot the safe return of spectators through late July and early August – with a view to reopen competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place, from October.

The events have been carefully selected to represent a range of sports and indoor and outdoor spectator environments. They are expected to include two men’s county cricket friendly matches – such as Surrey v Middlesex at The Oval on July 26-27 – the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre from July 31, and the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival on August 1. There are also likely to be further pilot events for other sports, in order to build up to and prepare for the full, socially distanced return of sporting events.

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“For months millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top-class sporting event. So I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with a plan to help venues safely reopen their doors to fans," Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said.

“I recognise that not every sport, team or club has the benefit of huge commercial revenue, and it is often their dedicated fans that are the lifeblood which helps keep them going. By working closely with sports and medical experts, these pilots will help ensure the safe return of fans to stadia.

“Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country.”

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