The Premier League and other elite sport can continue behind closed doors during a new four-week national lockdown in England.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new restrictions for the country that will start on Thursday and run until 2 December to combat coronavirus and avoid the NHS being overwhelmed.
“The changes mean people should work from home where possible,” tweeted culture secretary Oliver Dowden.
“But where this is not possible, travel to a place of work will be permitted – e.g. this includes (but not exhaustive) elite sport played behind closed doors.”
During a news conference to announce the measures, Johnson gave a thumbs up and said “Yes to the Premier League” when asked if top-flight football will continue.
The Premier League was halted in March before the first national lockdown and has been played without fans since it restarted in June.
The English Football League says it has been told by the government that its competitions can continue in England and Wales.
“We acknowledge the government’s national efforts in tackling this outbreak and would hope that during this next phase of the crisis, our national sport, negatively affected by Covid-19 like many other industries, can continue to provide some form of welcome distraction and give people in our communities up and down the country a sense of normality in very challenging times,” the EFL said in a statement.
Leisure centre and gyms close, guidance unclear on grassroots sport
Leisure centres and gyms will close under the news restrictions, while it is not clear what how grassroots and amateur sport will be affected, but guidance is being drawn up.
Under the new restrictions:
- People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work which cannot be done from home and education.
- People are allowed to exercise outdoors alone, with their household or with one other person
Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson said her organisation was “extremely disappointing and frustrating to see indoor leisure being forced to close again,” adding that pools were a “safe and a lifeline for many people” and should be “considered an essential service”.
“A second period of closure will push many facilities over the edge and there is the dangerous prospect of losing so many facilities for good,” she said.
Nickerson urged the government to “dig deep and find the necessary funding to ensure we don’t see swimming pools and other leisure facilities permanently close”.
UK Active, a non-for-profit body representing gyms and leisure centres said it was “deeply concerned” by the new measures.
In a statement, it said: “We urge the Prime Minister to ensure comprehensive financial support for the health and fitness sector is available to help it survive this period, minimising the now grave threat to further business failure and significant job losses.”