May 11, 2021

Sports Legend

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says pilot testing in sport helps ‘unlock’ a sense of normalcy


Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says pilot events such as the World Snooker Championship and FA Cup semi-finals will help ‘unlock’ a sense of normalcy and ‘pave the way for a comeback of life as we knew it ”

  • Sports fans returned to the UK Stadium over the current weekend
  • 320 fans attended Saturday’s World Snooker Championships in Sheffield
  • 4,000 fans will attend the FA Cup match between Leicester and Southampton on Sunday
  • Wembley will also host 8,000 spectators in the Carabao Cup final next week

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden hopes this week’s pilot events for returning crowds “will pave the way for the return of life as we knew it.”

The Saturday opening day of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield was the first of a number of trials under the government-run Events Research Program (ERP), with other events this week.

The ERP will test various methods to identify the safest and most effective ways to get fans back to sporting events in large numbers starting June 21.

Oliver Dowden says this week’s sporting pilot events are a crucial step towards a normal life

320 fans attended the World Snooker Championships at Sheffield's Crucible on Saturday

320 fans attended the World Snooker Championships at Sheffield’s Crucible on Saturday

There will be 4,000 fans at Wembley for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton, including 8,000 in next week’s Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham.

The capacity of the crucible will be gradually increased subject to strict conditions, including the requirement that ticket holders undergo coronavirus tests before and after the event.

Dowden says the success of these pilot events will be a critical step in getting back to normal life.

He wrote in a Sunday Telegraph column: “ The World Snooker Championship is back in full force in the world famous Crucible arena.

Dowden claims opening the doors of The Crucible is the starting gun to return to normalcy

Dowden claims opening the doors of The Crucible is the starting gun to return to normalcy

This afternoon he will be joined by the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton at Wembley, as well as the Carabao Cup final next week – all playing in front of a crowd as the government kicks off a series of pilots to test the return of mass events.

“Together, these pilots will put Covid-19 under the microscope. We are deploying the best of our UK universities and scientific expertise to safely examine the risk of transmission in a number of different settings: sitting and non-sitting; indoor and outdoor sites.

“Over the past week, many of us have enjoyed our first delicious pint in the garden of the local pub or enjoyed a tasty – albeit cold – meal in front of our favorite restaurant.

“ We sat in the barber or barber’s chair with relief and supported our local stores – browsing the rails or a bookstore in person for the first time in months.

There will be 4,000 fans in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton

There will be 4,000 fans in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton

“But that’s just a small slice of normal life. There are countless other things that we still sorely miss: our theaters and cinemas, our concerts and our festivals. A trip to a family musical or a day of soccer, surrounded by singing fans.

“ These are things that help build a life of memories, adding much needed color to our daily lives.

“These pilots will help unlock all of these things. In a few months we hope that we will look back at the World Snooker Championship and others as the starting weapon not only for a summer of fun, but for so much more.

“ Ultimately, they could pave the way for the return of life as we knew it. ”

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