Pilot crowd schemes in England cancelled due to coronavirus upsurge

London (AFP) –


The Snooker World Championships and Saturday's final day of the Goodwood racing festival will no longer welcome spectators due to a coronavirus upsurge in England, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday.

They were to be part of a pilot scheme to welcome back limited numbers of spectators -- The Oval got the ball rolling with one thousand spectators to watch Middlesex play Surrey last Sunday.

"I have said our plan to reopen society and the economy is conditional... that we would not hesitate to put the brakes on if required. Our assessment is that we should now squeeze that brake pedal," said Johnson at a press briefing.

Three hundred spectators were due to be allowed into the auditorium at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield -- a decision which had not been greeted with universal joy by the players.

Goodwood will still go ahead with the final day's racing but like the rest of the meeting, it will now be behind closed doors.

"The government has informed racing's leaders in the past hour that it has withdrawn permission for a pilot event involving customers, to proceed at Goodwood tomorrow (Saturday)," read a joint statement from the British Horse Racing Authority, Racecourse Association and Goodwood Racecourse.

"We understand that concern about the national infection rate is the primary reason, and as a result all pilots of larger crowds in sporting venues will be postponed until at least 15 August.

"We are very disappointed for those who were hoping to attend tomorrow's event and for all those who have worked so hard to make it possible for spectators to be present."

Cricket too has been affected as crowds had been due to attend two of this weekend's county games.

A spokesperson for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said the decision was "disappointing for supporters who have waited a long time to see their clubs in action".

“However, we understand the reasons the Government has made this decision, and remain ready to work with them to ensure supporters can safely return to stadiums when Government advice allows."