The United Kingdom is seeking ways for fans to return to closure-hit sports stadiums, as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden kicked off the first meeting of an expert taskforce setting up to work on a return of fans to elite sports venues on Thursday.
A plan to allow access to limited numbers of fans into stadiums from October was postponed earlier this week because of a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases across the country.
Following test events across football, rugby, cricket, snooker and basketball, a pilot program for the return of spectators to sporting events has also been postponed.
Dowden said: “Due to rapidly rising transmission rates, we were not able to proceed with the return of fans from the start of October, and are therefore looking at support to help sports.”
“But I will not give up on finding ways to get fans back safely.”
Dowden said the Sports Technology and Innovation Group (STIG) will be working through innovative ideas and technology which could help to get fans back in stadia and grounds more quickly.
The group includes sport, health and tech experts working with sport bodies to explore high-tech solutions to get fans back into sports venues when it is safe to do so.
Chaired by businessman David Ross, a non-executive director of the British Olympic Association, the group met for the first time on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said: “The group will work closely with sports bodies and the Sport Grounds Safety Authority to explore the whole ‘fan journey’ – from home to venue – such as fans’ traveling to and from stadiums, as well as reducing crowding both inside and outside those venues.
“It will recommend technical solutions to the government that could help bring crowds back into elite sporting venues when it is safe to do so.”
Ross said: “We need to do all we can to get fans back into sports grounds and cheering on their heroes as soon as we can safely do so. This group of sport, health and tech experts will work at pace to identify any smart innovations that can help speed up the process of allowing supporters back into stadiums.”
“We know how crucial sport is to the social fabric of our communities as well as the local businesses who rely on it for income in towns and cities across the country. This group of experts will do all it can to come up with solutions that can help bring back live sport for the millions of fans who are missing it as much as we do,” he added.