Sports fans in the UK might not be able to watch live sport in person until March 2021 as it was confirmed by the government to cancel any immediate plans to introduce the return of fans to stadia amid a spike in coronavirus cases.
The news comes as a huge blow to sporting bodies which have already suffered much loss from lack of ticket sales, and the reality of no ticket income until next Spring will be devastating for some.
There was optimism that fans would be allowed to return as of October 1, but a rise in Covid-19 cases in the UK and the introduction of new social distancing measures has forced the government to place the plans under review and keep restrictions for a further six months.
Teams have been working hard to see the staggered return of fans with a number of initiatives being introduced and technologies being developed to keep fans, staff and athletes safe. English Premier League side Brighton recently held a friendly fixture against Chelsea, where 2,500 fans were allowed in the Amex Stadium in a trial to see how reduced numbers would work within the venue. Other sporting events have also been held with reduced numbers in place and other pilot programs introduced, however, UK sport now faces a zero-fan restriction in place for soccer, rugby, cricket, Formula 1, and horse racing.
It is estimated the English Premier League clubs could suffer a £700m loss in ticket receipts this season, while the Rugby Football Union suffering a loss of £60m without fans at the Six Nations and Autumn Nations Cup events.
The UK government has said the plans will be kept under review, but financial aid beyond the £200m Sport England has already handed out will no doubt be called upon to help some clubs keep the lights on.
Meanwhile, in the US, the NFL has begun its new season with the majority of stadia empty of fans. The Cleveland Browns was one team that has been allowed to host 10% of its capacity for its first two home games.