Wales’ autumn internationals could yet be played in Wales after Boris Johnson pulled the plug on pilot plans to bring back crowds at sporting events.
A spike in Covid-19 cases in England means a series of planned lockdown easing measures have been postponed there.
The trials were supposed to be the first step in a plan to get crowds back to sporting fixtures by October in England, with the Welsh Government due to monitor the pilot events before making their own decision for Wales.
If the planned trials had proved successful, the October return would have seen Wales playing their six autumn rugby fixtures in London, with the Principality Stadium definitely out of use, no matter what the Welsh Government’s stance on sporting crowds.
The Welsh Rugby Union are desperate to generate some revenue in the coming months as they face a £50m financial black hole if they can’t sell any tickets for matches this year. With the Principality Stadium remaining a standby field hospital, the huge stadiums at Twickenham, Tottenham, Arsenal or West Ham, are seen as the best financially viable options to cater for a significant number of spectators.
If crowds are not allowed in either England or Wales, the WRU would abort the London plans they are making and are likely to play Wales’ matches at Parc y Scarlets or potentially Rodney Parade
Successful trials could also have opened the door for fans to be able to attend Cardiff City, Swansea City and potentially Wales football matches in the autumn.
But those plans have been put on ice for at least two weeks, casting doubt on a date for the permanent return of sports crowds amid concerns of an autumn second wave of coronavirus.
Around 5,000 racegoers had been due to attend the Glorious Goodwood Festival on Saturday before the trial was scrapped on Friday.
And fans won’t now be able to attend the 17-day World Snooker Championship at the Crucible as planned.
“Pilots of crowds at sports events will now not take place,” the Prime Minister said.
Two matches in cricket’s Bob Willis Trophy starting on Saturday had been due to welcome spectators this weekend – Surrey v Middlesex at the Oval and Warwickshire v Northamptonshire at Edgbaston.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement: “We understand this is disappointing for supporters who have waited a long time to see their clubs in action and were looking forward to attending pilot events at the Kia Oval and Edgbaston this weekend.
“However, we understand the reasons the Government has made this decision, and remain ready to work with them to ensure supporters can safely return to stadiums when Government advice allows.”
The sporting postponements are among a number of measures announced by Mr Johnson.
Measures due to be lifted on Saturday in England, including allowing small wedding receptions and reopening bowling alleys and casinos, have been postponed for at least two weeks.
Face coverings will also become mandatory in indoor settings such as museums and places of worship from August 8 in England. It followed the introduction of more stringent lockdown measures in the north of England following a spike.
Wales, meanwhile, today announced a series of lockdown easing moves, including the reopening of indoor gyms and swimming pools on August 10. You can read full details on that here.