The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, says there is “no reason” to consider directing all UK sporting events to be played behind closed doors in a bid to combat the spread of coronavirus. Government ministers are meeting sporting bodies in London to discuss possible next steps, but Dowden believes current health advice does not yet require such precautions.
Officials in Italy, France and Greece have imposed bans on spectators at major events, with Paris Saint-Germain announcing on Monday that their Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund this week will be played behind closed doors.
But Dowden told BBC Breakfast: “At the moment the advice is clear from the chief medical officer, there isn’t a need to cancel such events. There’s no reason for people either not to attend such events or to cancel them at this stage, but we keep it under review.”
Asked about holding games behind closed doors as is the case in Italy, he said: “That is an option in the future but we are clear at this point there is no need for events to be cancelled. We are very cognisant of the impact the cancelling of events may have both in terms of the economic and social impact.”
Asked about plans to shut museums, galleries or concert halls, Dowden said: “I think all of this is quite premature at this stage, we are not anywhere near that sort of stage.”
PSG issued a short statement saying the decision had been made on police advice. Meanwhile, the first leg of Wolves’ Europa League tie against Olympiakos is likely to be played behind closed doors after the Greek government announced on Sunday that all professional sports events for the next fortnight will be played without spectators.
Serie A games were delayed or postponed at the weekend after 16 million people were placed in lockdown, with Pescara taking to the field for their Serie B game at Benvenuto wearing protective masks.
Football’s world governing body Fifa said that 2022 World Cup qualifying matches in Asia due to be played this month and in June had been postponed. But there was scope for individual national associations to still stage matches in the March and June international breaks if they mutually agreed to, and that the safety of all individuals met the required standards. Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation would also have to give their approval to any match going ahead.