UK sports have avoided a hammer blow as the government confirms that ‘elite sports can continue behind closed doors’ during the looming month of lockdown restrictions sanctioned across England.
However, despite relief at avoiding a blanket cancellation of sports calendar, UK bodies remain sceptical as to how the government will ensure COVID-19 safeguards and further financial support for impacted wider stakeholders and venues facing an autumn of crisis.
With UK racing set to host its first jump meetings on Thursday 5 November, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) stated that it would push for clarity on racetrack restrictions with regards to participation.
BHA Chief Executive Nick Rust said that he would ‘fight hard’ to maintain owners with runners’ presence within UK racetracks but underlined that no guarantees could be made.
Speaking to Racing TV, Rust noted that he had been given a list of queries from owners with regards to participation conditions during lockdown in which racing seeks to avoid different arrangements between England Scotland and Wales.
Meanwhile, despite guarantees by PM Boris Johnson that ‘football would remain uninterrupted’, the FA issued a short statement underlining that it would need clarifications on how lockdown restrictions would impact non-league football across England.
The FA requires urgency on the matter as its FA Cup features nine amateur sides, who are scheduled to play their knockout fixtures from 6-9 November.
The EFL stated that it would support the government’s decision, in which its League clubs had undertaken the ‘most stringent, robust and regularly reviewed protocols to ensure stadiums were Covid-secure and stop the spread of the virus’.
Last week, EFL Chairman Ricky Parry wrote to HM Treasury reaffirming concerns that EFL owners footing a £400 million per season costs could not secure their clubs futures unless the government guaranteed terms on an ‘acceptable financial bailout’.
Hosting its marquee ‘ATP Tour Finals’ at London’s 02 Arena (15-22 November), the sport’s top organisation stated that its end-of-season event would continue ‘behind closed doors’, as O2 facilities undertake special ‘bubble arrangements’ to ensure the safety and hosting of tennis top-eight ranked players and doubles teams.
For UK greyhounds, GBGB Managing Director Mark Bird underscored the sport’s relief at concluding its marquee Derby race at Nottingham Greyhound Stadium on Saturday night as the government announced a further lockdown.
Bird confirmed that UK Greyhounds await a formal decision by DCMS as to whether the sport will be allowed to continue under lockdown conditions.
“After an already incredibly tough year and whilst everyone remains delighted that the Derby has reached its final tonight, we are all aware that the government has again been deliberating as to how to respond to the increase in Covid cases,” said Bird.
“We will report back ahead of further conversations with officials at DCMS but in the meantime we ask everyone to remain united and optimistic that we can continue racing whilst being observant to overall public safety.”