• Quote: ‘October 11 was due to be our final meeting. We were planning to allow a small crowd. This news means the entire Flat season will have been and gone, with no people whatsoever’ – Goodwood MD Adam Waterworth

By Andrew Atkinson

Plans for spectators to return to sports venues in England from October 1 will not go ahead, according to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove – thwarting racegoers attending Goodwood in October.

“October 11 was due to be our final meeting of the season and we were planning to allow a small crowd in, probably in hope rather than expectation in the last few weeks. 

“With this news it means the entire Flat season will have been and gone, with no people whatsoever. “We’re in the events business and there’s no business without people. It’s going to be difficult.

“I wouldn’t want to underplay what’s been done already, but an extension of the rates relief and furlough schemes would help us to keep people on the books and try our best to ride this through,” said Goodwood managing director Adam Waterworth.

The decision comes in the wake of the coronavirus situation in the UK – with a spike in cases during September leading to a u-turn to spectators returning to attend sports fixtures.

The proposed return of crowds to stadiums and venues was placed under review by the UK government in September, after a rise in coronavirus cases, with pilot events restricted to 1,000 people. 

Gove confirmed the plans would be ‘paused’ amid the government reportedly trying to gauge the impact of fans being absent for several months with sports bodies.

“We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning. We weren’t going to have stadiums thronged with fans,” said Gove.

“We’re looking at how we can pause that programme, but we want to make sure that when circumstances allow, we get more people back.

“The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors, but again it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a number of new measures on September 23, after the UK’s Covid-19 alert level was moved to four, meaning transmission of the virus is high or exponentially rising. 

Planned sports pilot events will be paused, casting doubt over whether a limited number of spectators can attend. 

The setback comes after over 100 sports had written to PM Boris Johnson to ask for emergency funding for the sector. A number of sports had also urged the government to allow them to bring back crowds in October.