‘Crack team’ ap­pointed to speed up the re­turn of fans

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport / Covid Crisis - By Ben Rumsby

Plans to get fans back into sta­di­ums will be stepped up this week when the Gov­ern­ment un­veils a “crack team” charged with find­ing high­tech so­lu­tions to a shut-out it has ex­tended for up to another six months.

Barely 48 hours af­ter scrap­ping the re­turn of crowds in pro­fes­sional and semi-pro­fes­sional sport fol­low­ing a spike in coro­n­avirus cases, min­is­ters are poised to an­nounce the make-up of the Sport Tech In­no­va­tion Group, which will fea­ture sport, health and tech ex­perts led by David Ross, co-founder of the Car­phone Ware­house.

Plans to cre­ate this “crack team” were an­nounced last month by Oliver Dow­den, the Cul­ture Sec­re­tary, who said it would look at in­no­va­tions such as track­ing de­vices to mea­sure so­cial dis­tanc­ing be­tween fans, flu­o­res­cent dis­in­fec­tants to re­veal how of­ten sur­faces were touched and ways of mak­ing travel to and from venues safer.

The group will also fea­ture Premier League chair­man Gary Hoff­man, Sport Eng­land vice-chair Natalie Ceeney and Jonathan VanTam, the deputy chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer for Eng­land, with the Sports Grounds Safety Author­ity act­ing as sec­re­tariat.

Dow­den said it would li­aise with sports bod­ies in­clud­ing the Premier League and Eng­land and Wales Cricket Board and would also help get peo­ple back in the­atres, cin­e­mas and mu­sic venues.

The group will be un­der even more pres­sure to come up with so­lu­tions af­ter the Gov­ern­ment scrapped plans to au­tho­rise the re­turn of crowds at pro and semipro level on Oct 1, leav­ing sport on the brink of fi­nan­cial col­lapse. Min­is­ters had pre­vi­ously been set to al­low venues to be up to a third full pro­vided strict so­cial dis­tanc­ing was en­forced. The Gov­ern­ment also paused its pi­lot pro­gramme for the re­turn of crowds, which had al­ready seen those events in­volved re­stricted to welcoming up to 1,000 spec­ta­tors ear­lier this month fol­low­ing the resur­gence of the pan­demic.

Mean­while, the Hun­gar­ian gov­ern­ment in­sists it is “safe” for fans to at­tend tonight’s Su­per Cup be­tween Bay­ern Mu­nich and Sevilla, de­spite op­po­si­tion say­ing they will be “ex­per­i­men­tal rab­bits”. Bu­dapest’s Puskas Arena, with a 67,000 ca­pac­ity, is ex­pected to be a third full.

This week­end, For­mula One will stage the big­gest sport­ing spec­ta­tor event of the Covid-19 era, with 30,000 fans ex­pected for the Rus­sian Grand Prix. Tens of thou­sands of fans will be ad­mit­ted to Sochi’s Olympic Park to watch Lewis Hamil­ton bid­ding to match Michael Schu­macher’s vic­tory record.

Rus­sia is one of only four coun­tries in the world to have ex­ceeded one mil­lion Covid-19 cases and on Tues­day, 6,215 new in­fec­tions were re­ported.

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