Emerging report indicates that the United Kingdom, UK, government under emergency plans drawn up, is ready to limit sports crowds to just 500 people, if the coronavirus outbreak escalates, meaning that the legendary Old Trafford Football Stadium would be less than one percent full, for football matches.
The governing bodies of major sports were briefed about the contingency, earlier this week, and have been summoned to a meeting of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, on Monday, to discuss the logistical implications of limiting attendances.
The government’s official advice, that there is no need to limit mass gatherings remains unchanged, but their position is under constant review, and sports bodies have been warned that substantial restrictions on attendances may become necessary.
There is no time frame for introducing any changes, although the position may become clearer on Monday. Capping crowds at just 500 people, which at many events would only cover operational and broadcasting staff, was one proposal discussed last week.
The FA, Premier League, and EFL, held talks last week, about staging matches behind closed-doors, if the government prohibits large gatherings; and it is understood that other sports are having similar discussions.
England’s football international friendly against Italy, at Wembley, later this month, is in doubt, due to restrictions placed on people arriving from Italy, a problem that limiting the crowd would not alleviate, while the pre-match fair play handshake will not take place before any Premier League or EFL matches this weekend, on public health grounds.