Government's no children Covid policy at England Test match branded 'illogical'

·6-min read
 General view during the match, as a limited number of fans are permitted at outdoor sports venues  - Reuters
General view during the match, as a limited number of fans are permitted at outdoor sports venues - Reuters

The Government has been attacked over its “illogical” decision to ban children from the England cricket team’s second Test against New Zealand while allowing them into the football team’s European Championship games against Croatia and Scotland.

It was confirmed on Wednesday that more than 2,000 children with tickets for next month’s Test at Edgbaston would not be allowed to attend after it was chosen as one of the latest pilot events for the return of crowds to sport.

Being part of the pilot will allow three times as many spectators – 18,000 – to attend each day of the match from June 10-14 but under-16s will be denied entry because they are deemed unable to consent for participation in a clinical trial.

That is in line with other pilot events to date but the Telegraph Sport can reveal the Government plans to operate a different protocol for England’s opening two Euro 2020 matches on June 13 and 18 that will not require ticket holders’ consent.

That is despite the attendance at each of those games being the largest at any UK event – 22,500 – since the coronavirus crisis began.

Stuart Cain, the chief executive of Warwickshire County Cricket Club, said the Government had been asked to allow children to attend the Test match but had refused, acknowledging those affected would be “angry” and “upset”.

Richard Caborn, a sports minister under Tony Blair, said it was “illogical” to ban children from an 18,000 crowd when they were allowed to be part of a bigger one on the same days.

He said he also saw no reason why parents could not sign a consent form on behalf of their children, especially for a trial in which the only other significant element was pre- and post-event Covid testing – something schoolchildren were undergoing anyway.

He added: “The Government really ought to revisit this decision because they are going to upset a lot of young people unnecessarily.”

Children will also be banned from attending Royal Ascot from June 15-19, where 12,000 people will be admitted each day after it, too, was selected as part of the Government’s Events Research Programme.

But they will be allowed into England’s first Test at Lord’s next week, which is not part of the ERP, and attendance for which is capped at 7,500.

The 2,100 child-ticket holders for the second Test have been given the option of a refund or for an adult to go in their place.

A DCMS spokesperson said: "We understand that this is disappointing news for young cricket fans and are looking into the issue and what can be done.

"Our world-leading Events Research Programme is a vital piece of work to help open up venues to fuller crowds of all ages as soon as it is safe to do so and we are completely committed to achieving this."

Royal Ascot will welcome 12,000 spectators per day

By Marcus Armytage

Ascot will be able to host 12,000 racegoers for each day of its five day Royal meeting next month after being selected as one of the government’s pilot events for sport.

Until Wednesday’s announcement that Royal Ascot has been included in the Events Research Programme (ERP) on behalf of sport, the course was anticipating a limit of 4,000 a day – a cap that still applies to the Cazoo Derby a week on Saturday – between Tuesday June 15 and Saturday June 19.

Though it has been a case of twice bitten, thrice shy for racing after a series of costly pilots were abandoned by the government at short notice last autumn, hopes of an increase in numbers for Ascot rose substantially on Tuesday when it emerged there had just been 19 cases of Covid-19 among 58,000 people who took part in sport and cultural test events earlier this month.

That number of spectators will be, by a huge margin, the biggest crowd to attend a British racecourse since the Cheltenham Festival in March 2020 and it should signal the beginning of the end of the dire race-day atmosphere generated by empty racecourses save a few participants over the last year and, more recently, a few owners.

The precise details of what will be trialled and what the requirements from visitors will be is still being worked out but it means all those who rolled over their 2020 bookings can now be accommodated and an allocation of Royal Enclosure and general admission tickets – varying each day depending on how many roll-overs there are - will go on sale on Friday.

Racegoers look on from the grandstand on Ladies' Day during day three of Royal Ascot - Getty Images
Racegoers look on from the grandstand on Ladies' Day during day three of Royal Ascot - Getty Images

Though preparations were described as ‘frantic’ on Wednesday, Nick Smith, Ascot’s director of racing and public affairs, said that all temporary facilities had been built with the ability to upscale.

“It sounds like a very big crowd in the current context,” he said. “But 12,000 is the equivalent of what we would normally get for the Summer Mile (a Group Two which clashes with Newmarket’s July Cup). We’re working on a tight timescale to communicate how the event will be delivered.”

Julie Harrington, chief executive of the British Horseracing Authority, welcomed Ascot’s inclusion in the pilot.

“It is excellent news that Ascot will be included in the ERP as a pilot event,” she said. “It is an opportunity to demonstrate how racing events are perfectly suited to safely hosting spectators in greater numbers as we progress through the Government’s roadmap for the easing of lockdown restrictions.

“We are grateful to DCMS and this outcome reflects the strong and positive relationship between racing and Government. Working with colleagues we will ensure that our participants remain protected to the same degree that has been achieved with racing’s bespoke coronavirus protocols since resumption in June 2020.”

Nick Boyd, a regular in the Royal Enclosure and the Turf Club for over 40 years, said: “I’m delighted for racing but we have nothing to rollover and we’re waiting to hear how we apply.”

What would give the meeting a greater sense of a return to normal than anything would be the reinstating of the Royal Procession but, according to her racing manager John Warren, no decision has been made yet on the Queen’s attendance though she is also certain to have a number of runners.

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