• Quote: ‘The piloting of a small number of sporting events to test the safe return of spectators with a view to reopening competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place from October 1’ – UK government statement

By Andrew Atkinson

The 2020 world snooker championship final at the Crucible Theatre saw spectators allowed to be present in Sheffield as a pilot for future sports events.

The UK government announced that the programme of pilots could resume on August 15-16 after the initial pilot ended in July.

The Crucible saw 300 spectators for the final two days. If the pilots are a success the government says it could lead to other sports venues being opened to socially-distanced fans, from October 1.

More pilot events are due to be announced, involving indoor and outdoor sports: “We are delighted to announce that a reduced crowd will be at all sessions of the final of the World Championship on August 15-16,” said World Snooker.

“The piloting of a small number of sporting events to test the safe return of spectators with a view to reopening competition venues for sports fans, with social distancing measures in place from October 1,” the government said in a statement.

“This will commence with the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre during August 15-16, with a full pilot programme to follow.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We can now make further careful progress on recovery with allowing audiences back for indoor performances, fans back at sports events and the reopening of more Covid-19 secure leisure businesses.”

The World Snooker Championship became the first indoor live sports event in England to have crowds since lockdown, allowing some supporters in for the three sessions on July 31.

However, no more fans have been allowed to watch live sport since August 1, because of a spike in cases that led to all pilots being called off, including racing’s Glorious Goodwood and county cricket at The Oval and Edgbaston.

Five-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan previously criticised the decision to allow fans into the arena, saying it created an unnecessary risk. Anthony Hamilton, who suffers from severe asthma, withdrew on the eve of the tournament.

The code of conduct for fans instructed them they had to wear a mask while walking around the Crucible, but could remove it while watching the action, and the bars would not be open.

Barry Hearn, snooker chief, said: “So happy to have a live crowd for snooker finals.

“A lot of hard work has gone into this, so thanks to all my brilliant team. There’s around 10,000 people trying to get a golden ticket. If you’re unlucky – get a ticket for next year

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