MX23RW : Tuesday, September 22 08:49:29| >> :600:827537:827537:

Brighton friendly, WSL fixture among trial events for return of supporters

The events also cover rugby union, horse racing, cricket, basketball and speedway.

A Women’s Super League fixture between West Ham and Arsenal, plus a men’s football friendly at Brighton, are among a list of sporting events which will welcome a limited number of spectators.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed a raft of new events where spectators would be admitted on a socially-distanced basis, following the ban on mass gatherings introduced in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The events, which cover football, rugby union, horse racing, cricket, basketball and speedway, will take place over the course of the remainder of this month and September.

The WSL fixture between the Hammers and the Gunners on September 12 is among the pilot events, along with a Brighton men’s pre-season friendly against Chelsea this Saturday and a Lewes v London Bees women’s friendly the following day.

Non-league finals day at Wembley on September 20 will also admit a limited number of spectators, DCMS said.

Brighton later confirmed on their official website that they are making 2,500 tickets available to season ticket holders and members of their 1901 Club for Chelsea’s visit, which will kick-off at the Amex Stadium at 3pm.

The Gallagher Premiership fixture between Harlequins and Bath at the Twickenham Stoop on September 5 has been selected, as have racing meetings at Doncaster (the St Leger on September 9), Warwick on September 21 and Newmarket on September 24.

Harlequins chief executive Laurie Dalrymple expressed the club’s delight at being chosen to host an event.

“We are delighted to be able to host this pilot event, and we have been working incredibly hard with the relevant authorities to demonstrate that we can safely and securely host events with supporters,” he said.

“A huge amount of work has been done across the club to ensure operationally and medically that we deliver our match-day events to the highest standard, meeting the stringent guidelines.

“Our successful hosting of both Harlequins and London Irish matches at The Stoop since rugby’s return have been a great test, but having supporters in the stadium is what everyone has been striving for.

“We will communicate shortly with our supporters about how we will select those that are able to attend this match.

“We do of course hope that this pilot leads to further matches and increased numbers of supporters, which will enable us to get as many supporters as possible into The Stoop as soon as possible.”

Cricket matches in the Bob Willis Trophy and Vitality Blast are set for selection, with specific fixtures still to be confirmed.

A British Basketball League friendly in Newcastle on September 18 will feature spectators, as will a speedway event at Ipswich on September 26.

DCMS secretary of state Oliver Dowden said: “I know fans and their teams can’t wait to be reunited in stadia across the country, but it’s imperative we take a cautious and phased approach to get fans back in safely.

“I’m pleased that infection rates have levelled off enough to resume the pilot programme and we will continue to work intensively with sports, medical and health and safety experts towards welcoming more fans back as fast as we can.”

Bob Willis Trophy matches will welcome fans
Bob Willis Trophy matches will welcome fans (John Walton/PA)

The plan remains for spectators to be allowed back into sports venues in limited numbers more widely from October 1 as part of the Covid-19 road map to recovery.

The pilot events were put on hold on July 31, which meant plans to allow spectators in on each day of the World Snooker Championship and for crowds to attend the Glorious Goodwood horse-racing festival on August 1 had to be scrapped.

They were allowed back in for the conclusion of the snooker event on August 15 and 16.

However, proposals to allow Celtic’s home match against Motherwell on Sunday to go ahead with fans in the stadium have been rejected by the Scottish Government.

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