The Welsh government has announced that all sporting events in the country will be moved behind closed doors from December 26 in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The new rules will apply to all indoor, outdoor, professional and community sports events, meaning fans will not be able to attend any of the traditional Boxing Day sports fixtures.

Welsh Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said that the government would make available a new £3m (€3.5m/$4m) Spectator Sports Fund for clubs and sporting venues affected by the new measures.

However, Gething did not state how long the measures would be in place or when fans would be able to attend sports events again.

“Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year,” Gething said. “Unfortunately, the new Omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.

“We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.

“Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of Omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.

“Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports.”

The decision comes after some football clubs already announced their Christmas matches had been postponed because of cases of COVID-19 in their squads.

Championship team Cardiff City postponed its Boxing Day match against Coventry City due to several cases of COVID-19, while the League Two match between Forest Green and Welsh side Newport County was also called off.

The latest figures show Omicron cases are rising quickly in all parts of Wales, with the stats for December 20 revealing 6,796 new cases of COVID-19 in the country.

The overall rate of coronavirus infections in Wales now stands at just under 550 cases per 100,000 people.

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