A crowd of 4,000 fans will potentially be allowed to attend the September 5 Gallagher Premiership clash at The Stoop between Harlequins and Bath following the launch of a series of pilot events throughout elite English sport for the return of spectators. 

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Administrators in Scotland last week announced that some fans would be allowed in at Murrayfield to watch next Friday’s Guinness PRO14 derby between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Now the authorities in England have followed suit, with the meeting of Quins and Bath set to be the first time spectators will be allowed attend a Premiership match since the March 8 fixture at Ashton Gate featuring Bristol and Harlequins.  

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England forward Courtney Lawes guests on All Access, the RugbyPass interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton

The UK government had cancelled the pilot scheme at the end of the last month due to a spike in Covid-19 infection rates, but a new phase of the testing programme began with the World Snooker Championship final in Sheffield on August 15 and 16.

That return was deemed a success and the programme will now branch out to other sports, starting with the accommodation of 2,500 people at next Saturday’s football pre-season game between Brighton and Chelsea.

Women’s football, cricket, horse racing, basketball and speedway are also included in the pilot scheme and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) hopes the testing of this range of different event styles throughout September can lead to a full reopening for fans in October.

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“I know fans and their teams can’t wait to be reunited in stadia across the country but it’s imperative we take a cautious and phased approach to get fans back in safely,” DCMS secretary of state Oliver Dowden said in a statement.

“I’m pleased that infection rates have levelled off enough to resume the pilot programme and we will continue to work intensively with sports, medical and health and safety experts towards welcoming more fans back as fast as we can.”

Harlequins CEO Laurie Dalrymple said: “We are delighted to able to host this pilot event and we have been working incredibly hard with the relevant authorities to demonstrate that we can safely and securely host events with supporters.

“A huge amount of work has been done across the club to ensure operationally and medically that we deliver our matchday events to the highest standard, meeting the stringent guidelines. Our successful hosting of both Harlequins and London Irish matches at The Stoop since rugby’s return have been a great test, but having supporters in the stadium is what everyone has been striving for.

“We will communicate shortly with our supporters about how we will select those that are able to attend this match. We are sure they will understand that it is impossible to get everyone into the stadium for this pilot and we must have a selection process.

“We do of course hope that this pilot leads to further matches and increased numbers of supporters which will enable us to get as many supporters as possible into The Stoop as soon as possible. At this stage, we ask our supporters to hold for further information which will come shortly while we wait for final details from DCMS.”

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