Frustrated sports fans are set to miss out after the return of spectators on a pilot basis was scrapped by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Snooker’s World Championship, which began in front of a reduced audience on Friday, will resume at an empty Crucible in Sheffield following new restrictions in the wake of a spike in coronavirus cases.
Thousands of people planning to attend Saturday’s racing at Glorious Goodwood have also been thwarted, while a couple of county cricket matches will take place behind closed doors.
The new restrictions on fans will be enforced until at least August 15.
World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn, who saw defending champion Judd Trump progress from his first-round match on Friday, is ready to enact contingency plans.
“It leaves us on Plan B, we are going to be resilient, we’ll get through as we always will and Plan B is to revert to, from tomorrow, behind closed doors,” Hearn told the BBC.
“There is a chance, I’m ever the optimist, a return for the final, in the meantime, I’m gutted, of course.
“The work the team has done… an amazing job getting this ready and they must feel terribly deflated. From day one we followed every single safety guideline, we have a new guideline and we follow that as well.”
Speaking earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Johnson said: “Pilots of crowds at sports events will now not take place.”
Two matches in cricket’s Bob Willis Trophy – Surrey v Middlesex at the Kia Oval and Warwickshire v Northamptonshire at Edgbaston – had been due to welcome spectators this weekend.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement: “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.
Following Boris Johnson’s press conference this afternoon, The Kia Oval can no longer host spectators for the fixture between Surrey and Middlesex at The Kia Oval on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd August.
Full information is available via the link below.
— Surrey Cricket (@surreycricket) July 31, 2020
The ECB expects next week’s first Test between England and Pakistan at Old Trafford to be unaffected by the latest restrictions around the Greater Manchester area.
The government has banned separate households from meeting indoors, and while the ECB will keep everything under review, existing protocols will allow the game to go ahead.
Around 5,000 spectators were expected to attend Goodwood in West Sussex on Saturday.
A joint statement from the racecourse, the British Horseracing Authority and the Racecourse Association read: “The racing on Saturday will continue behind closed doors as it has on the earlier days of the festival.
Very disappointing news that with rise in infection rates we cannot press ahead with sports pilots with fans this weekend
I know the huge efforts cricket, snooker & horseracing have made to welcome fans back
We’ll keep working together on their safe return asap
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) July 31, 2020
“The Prime Minister is setting out the rationale for the government’s decision but we understand that concern about the national infection rate is the primary reason.”
Mass gatherings have been banned since March following the onset of the pandemic in the United Kingdom.
Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, tweeted: “I know the huge efforts cricket, snooker and horse racing have made to welcome fans back. We’ll keep working together on their safe return asap.”