Culture secretary Oliver Dowden: Now is not the time for fans to re-enter stadiums
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has said now is not the right time to reopen football stadiums, as the number of Covid-19 infections rises rapidly.
Asked by Dan Walker on BBC Breakfast why football stadiums were not allowed to admit fans in, even under strict social distancing guidelines, while pubs and restaurants were filled with customers, Dowden explained that there are a number of risks involved and the government feel now is not the right time to allow fans back in.
"That was the plan, and that's something we ideally wanted to happen," Dowden said.
"We'd gone through this phased reopening of football. For example, very early on, football was one of the first sports to return behind closed doors. We facilitated that with some games free to air on the BBC.
"The next stage was due to be on October 1st, to allow fans back in socially distanced circumstances. We worked very closely with the clubs to mitigate many of the risks surrounding that.
"Ultimately, though, against this backdrop of rapidly rising infections, your viewers would appreciate that now is not the time to do that, to add to the risk of infections spreading."
Dan Walker responded: "Even outside, with 1,000 people in a 60,000 seater stadium?"
"Well, there are risks associated with that," Dowden said.
"At a time when we're making no easements at all, from October 1st, indeed we are looking to impose further restrictions, now is not the time to do it.
"I can assure you and your viewers that I'm working intensively to see when we can do this, as soon as it's safe to do so, once we get the disease under control."
That'll be never, then?
— Ollie Bayliss (@Ollie_Bayliss) October 12, 2020
"We're not sitting on our laurels," he continued.
"Remember it's not just in the stadium, it's the journey to and from. We didn't feel now was the appropriate time."