Germany extends ban on fans to put UK plans in doubt
The ban on spectators attending Bundesliga matches was extended by German health ministers yesterday in another signal that British hopes of getting crowds back by Oct 1 may be overly ambitious.
Germany’s federal and state governments agreed spectators should be kept out until at least the end of October due to fears of a second wave in the Covid-19 pandemic, Reuters news agency reported.
The announcement will concern officials at the Premier League, who had been in regular contact with counterparts in Germany’s top tier during the Project Restart resumption behind closed doors.
The Bundesliga season restarted in mid-May after a suspension of more than two months, becoming the first European league to resume under strict rules to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“We need to stay vigilant. In the current situation, spectators in the stadiums would be the wrong signal,” health minister Jens Spahn said in a tweet. Spahn pointed to a rising number of new coronavirus cases over the past few days and warned against taking any avoidable risks that could further increase the infection rate.
In England, ministers face a race against time to ensure enough testing is carried out at stadiums ahead of a proposed Oct 1 return for crowds, after spectator pilots were cancelled at the snooker, cricket and horse racing at the end of July.
Whitehall sources said there remained no change to current plans last night. “We’ll continue to work closely with the sector, including on any additional pilots that will be required, in order that we can build up to and prepare for full, socially-distanced reopenings for sporting events from Oct 1 if it is safe to do so,” the source said.
An extended delay on the return of fans would spell disaster for clubs outside the elite, with many football and rugby venues estimating they would still be making losses even when 40 per cent full.
Nigel Huddleston, the sports minister, warned last week that clubs can expect little more support after “government schemes to the tune of tens, if not hundreds of millions of pounds” were taken out over the past four months.
Goodwood, the Oval, Edgbaston and the Crucible were forced to abandon plans at just 24 hours’ notice on July 31 following government warnings that lockdown easing had been put back.