2021 in review – July

July marked the return of full-capacity crowds at sports venues in England as the UK government lifted COVID-19 restrictions.

The government had hoped that restrictions would be lifted from June 21 but this was pushed back until July 19 due to rising cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19.

The lifting of restrictions came after a number of events were held at full capacity as part of the government’s Events Research Programme. These included Formula 1’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Wimbledon tennis championships and England’s One Day International against Pakistan at Lord’s.

The return of fans to sporting events in England was in stark contrast to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where no spectators were permitted at the majority of venues. The announcement that the Games would be held behind closed doors came after a state of emergency was declared in the Japanese capital.

Elsewhere in Olympics news, the Australian city of Brisbane was approved as the host of the 2032 summer Games. The International Olympic Committee had previously announced Brisbane as its preferred candidate for the Games, with the city having been commended for its venue masterplan.

July was a memorable month for English football fans as Gareth Southgate’s team reached the final of Euro 2020 at Wembley Stadium, but the match against Italy was marred by crowd trouble ahead of kick-off.

A large number of ticketless fans illegally forced their way into Wembley for the match, which Italy won on penalties. In line with COVID-19 restrictions at the time, the official capacity for the match was 60,000 but it was estimated that around 200,000 fans were in the vicinity of the stadium in the hours leading up to the final.

In the days after the final, UEFA launched a probe into the incidents, while the FA also commissioned an independent review.

July also saw Premier League club Everton officially begin work on its new 52,888-capacity stadium at Bramley Moore Dock. Everton stadium development director Colin Chong hailed the “significant occasion” and thanked fans for their support on the project.

It was also a busy month for stadium and arena naming-rights deals in the US. The New Orleans Saints NFL team signed a 20-year partnership with Caesars Entertainment for naming rights to its Superdome stadium, with the deal reported to be worth $138m (£104m/€122m).

Meanwhile in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder agreed arena naming-rights deals with material science company Footprint and cloud-based financial software company Paycom, respectively.

Image: Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash