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The return of fans to sporting events in the UK

Since more serious measures have been taken in March regarding the global pandemic, no fans have attended any sporting events in the UK to avoid an unnecessary spread of Covid-19.

This was a sensible decision from the government and undoubtedly helped the slow of the spread of the virus, but the lack of spectators has clearly negatively impacted sports. After all, it is for the fans that the players play, and events like the FA Cup that Arsenal won against Chelsea just did not have the same feel to it as previous finals.

There is good news however, as some events have allowed the return of a limited number of fans in the venues. This is not necessarily a sign of things to come however and is more of a trial to see if fans can slowly start to return. For Premier League fans, the objective is to return on the 1st of October, but these three events have allowed the return of some fans.

Irish Cup Final

Last Friday, Ballymena and Glentoran faced off in the Irish Cup final for the first UK football match since lockdown to be played in front of fans. 250 tickets were allocated to both teams, who distributed these through raffles, to season ticket holders and however else they saw fit.

The fans were made to have their temperature taken before the game to make sure that they did not have a fever as well as having to wear face masks for the game. They were placed behind each goal and social distancing was still in place.

To ensure player and fan safety, extra stewards were deployed for the game. It proved to be an exciting game for the fans as it went into extra time tied at 1-1 before a goal in the 115th minute secured victory for Glentoran.

A drive in was organised at Ballymena’s home stadium for those who were not allocated tickets to the final, and overall, the trial run for fans seems to have been a success. It is very unlikely that Covid-19 was spread and is encouraging for fans hoping to make games next season.

Snooker World Championships

The Snooker World Championships, delayed since April and May, announced that some fans will be lucky enough to attend the matches. 300 fans have been allowed to attend each day since the 31st of July and they have been seated in a similar way to in a cinema.

The Crucible has more than enough space to allow social distancing and fans can sit with those that they are attending with but are socially distanced with all other fans.

As the highlight of the snooker calendar and the tournament that garners the most recognition outside of the sport, spectators will be pleased with the fact that some fans have so far been able to attend and the controlled environment seems to have been a successful trial as well.

Glorious Goodwood Festival

Held from the 28th of July to the 1st of August, the Glorious Goodwood Festival took place and allowed a much bigger number of fans than either of the other events. 5000 spectators were permitted to attend the final day of the Festival, which is of course a lot fewer than usual but still caused some concern with the general public.

The racecourse is outside and is very large which explains why so many more fans were allowed to attend. There was enough space for the fans to socially distance themselves and it was an important trial for horse racing, since it is a sport that is hoping to return to normal quicker than others.

It seems to have been successful although that will only be certain after a couple of weeks. What is encouraging from these events is that fans are eager to return to the venues and seem willing to comply with safety regulations to have that happen.

Sport is simply not the same without fans, they give the players encouragement and the passion that they need to perform better and push themselves as far as possible. The existence of the home advantage proves that fans play a role in the result themselves, so the quicker fans can return to attending sporting events the better.

Of course, this is only if it is safe, as the general public’s health is more important, but the faster, the better for everyone involved with sport or anyone who is a fan.