Bath and Bristol fans hoping to watch their teams live in Gallagher Premiership action before the end of September have had their plans ruined after the UK Government paused its series of pilot events permitting spectators to return to watch live sport at stadiums.
The Rec was due to play host to 1,000 fans for this Tuesday night’s Gallagher Premiership derby fixture against Gloucester, while Ashton Gate was also set to welcome fans to next week’s meeting between Bristol and Leicester.
It followed recent events at The Stoop and Kingsholm where fans of Harlequins and Gloucester were allowed to watch the respective matches against Bath and Quins.
The series of pilot events was expected to clear the way for the return of an even greater number of fans from October 1 onwards. However, that plan for the re-opening of sport has now been shelved.
A Tuesday lunchtime statement read: “Premiership Rugby can confirm that following Government advice tonight’s Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bath and Gloucester will now go ahead behind closed doors, without supporters present.
English setback https://t.co/N38bwgAvs2
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 22, 2020
“The fixture was due to be part of the series of test events the government approved to pilot the safe return of spectators, adhering to social distancing measures. But 1,000 spectators will no longer be admitted to this match or Bristol Bears game against Leicester Tigers next week.”
The development also dashes the plan by the RFU to allow upwards of 20,000 fans attend the England versus Barbarians game on October 25, the day after it was expected a similar type attendance could attend the final of the Gallagher Premiership.
With the UK’s Covid-19 alert level moving to four, meaning transmission is “high or rising exponentially”, UK cabinet office minister Michael Gove told BBC Breakfast: “We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.
“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back. The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling.”
We are very sorry to bring you this news. We were all very excited to have you back at the Rec this evening.
But the safety of our players, staff and YOU, our supporters is paramount.
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) September 22, 2020
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now