Scrap­ping the re­turn of fans is ‘crack­ers’

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Covid Crisis - By Tom Mor­gan and Ben Rumsby

The ra­tio­nale be­hind the scrap­ping of the re­turn of crowds in pro­fes­sional and semi-pro­fes­sional sport was branded “crack­ers” and “in­con­sis­tent” by public health ex­perts last night as the sec­tor was left reel­ing by the new lock­down rules.

Boris John­son’s an­nounce­ment that sports would re­main be­hind closed doors for up to six months was called into ques­tion af­ter he con­tin­ued to al­low pubs to re­main open – al­beit un­der a 10pm cur­few.

Prof John Ash­ton, former direc­tor of public health for North West Eng­land, said: “From a public health per­spec­tive, there’s a shock­ing lack of con­sis­tency – it’s crack­ers.

“I can hardly an­swer why you might be safer in a pub. There are such a lot of in­con­sis­ten­cies, where clearly we need hard and fast rules.”

His sen­ti­ments were echoed by Prof Gabriel Scally, pres­i­dent of the epi­demi­ol­ogy and public health sec­tion of the Royal So­ci­ety of Medicine and a mem­ber of In­de­pen­dent Sage, which holds the Gov­ern­ment’s sci­en­tific ad­vis­ers to ac­count.

Prof Scally said he could not ex­plain the ra­tio­nale be­hind a ban on crowds of up to six months and that the plan for them to re­turn in limited num­bers with so­cial dis­sec­tor,

tanc­ing en­forced was a solid one. “Peo­ple not be­ing al­lowed to meet in homes, but you are al­lowed to go to the pub, but not sta­di­ums. It’s not very con­sis­tent,” he said.

“I’ve seen some of the ex­per­i­ments that have taken place at sport­ing venues, with rel­a­tively small num­bers of spec­ta­tors in huge venues, and I can’t see any rea­son why that isn’t suc­cess­ful. It’s all about mak­ing sure peo­ple ad­here to it.”

Yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment had been fore­cast since the Gov­ern­ment an­nounced a re­view of plans for the re­turn of crowds ear­lier this month.

But it still caught some out, with Chesterfie­ld chief ex­ec­u­tive John Croot telling BBC Ra­dio Sh­effield the Na­tional League side had “no idea” the “bomb­shell” news was com­ing and the club had to sus­pend ticket sales due to be­gin that morn­ing. The Gov­ern­ment’s pi­lot scheme for the re­turn of spec­ta­tors was also scrapped, throw­ing planned events of ca­pac­i­ties up to 1,000 into chaos.

Yes­ter­day’s pre-sea­son friendlies be­tween Con­cord Rangers and Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge, Yeovil Town and Bath City and Dart­ford and Dover Ath­letic were all cleared to pro­ceed.

But the Bath-Glouces­ter Gal­lagher Premier­ship clash went back be­hind closed doors.

Dis­may: Prof John Ash­ton crit­i­cised a lack of con­sis­tency

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