The UK government has announced the resumption of pilot events in England to test the safe return of spectators amid COVID-19, with the finale of the World Snooker Championship to have fans in attendance, while MotoGP is set to welcome fans back for the first time for next month’s races in Italy.

The UK government’s announcement yesterday (Thursday) evening came a fortnight after Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspended the staging of pilot sports events due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Fans were in attendance at the start of the World Snooker Championship on July 31 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, while spectators were also due to watch the first two days of county cricket matches at the Kia Oval and Edgbaston. Around 4,000 racegoers were expected to attend the Goodwood festival.

At the time, the government said the new restrictions on fans would be in place until August 15 at the earliest. Johnson’s announcement came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced new restrictions on household contact in the North West of England – specifically Greater Manchester, and parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

In a statement, the government said: “The piloting of a small number of sporting events to test the safe return of spectators will resume from August 15 with a view to reopening competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place from October 1. This will commence with the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre during 15-16 August, with a full pilot programme to follow.”

Yesterday’s announcement comes as a number of remaining aspects of England’s culture, sport, leisure and business sectors will be permitted to reopen from this weekend. Two weeks ago, concerns had been expressed about a slight increase in the number of people in England testing positive. However, the government said the situation now appears to have “levelled off”.

The plan set out in the ‘roadmap to recovery’ which was paused for two weeks will resume from Saturday in England, except for specific areas where local restrictions are in place. The Crucible is expected to welcome around 300 fans for the final two days of the Championship. World Snooker has announced that a small number of tickets will be available to buy for all four sessions. These will be on sale from 10.30am today until 6pm the evening before the session start date.

In other news, Italy’s Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli is set to become the first MotoGP venue to admit fans this season after being granted dispensation to do so by the region of Emilia Romagna.

The San Marino and Emilia Romagna rounds of the motorcycling championship, on September 11-13 and 18-20, will be permitted to allow 10,000 fans to attend per day. This will come with safety protocols including that fans will be restricted to one grandstand with no roaming allowed, and each grandstand to have dedicated parking sites.

The first three rounds of the amended 2020 MotoGP calendar have been held without fans in attendance, with the Austrian double-header commencing this weekend at Red Bull Ring also set to play out behind closed doors.

In a statement, the Misano Circuit said: “It is a decision that excites us because under specific conditions it also represents a green light for the restart of world sport, finally in front of the fans. In a month we will be ready to safely welcome 10,000 guests who will be able to enter the Simoncelli every day, thus guaranteeing the possibility that 60,000 people over the two weekends can see the action live.

“Sincere thanks to the Emilia-Romagna Region and to President (Stefano) Bonaccini for having listened to and carefully evaluated our project. Of course, it’s not 160,000 (that attended) in just one weekend last year, but today we objectively have an opportunity that until a few weeks ago seemed impossible, or very complicated to guarantee.

“It will in any case be a boost for the tourism industry, which can add an event that, it should not be forgotten, with the MotoGP ‘caravan’ guarantees at least another 3,000 people involved in organising and assisting the teams and who will stay on the Riviera. Added to this is the powerful media message that will reach the whole world.”

Earlier this week, MotoGP detailed plans to stage its season finale in Portimao, Portugal in November and it is hoped that fans will be able to attend the event. The grand prix is scheduled to take place from November 20-22 at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve and will serve as the 15th and final race of the 2020 season.

Image: World Snooker