Sport by sport: what new lockdown regulations will mean in UK


Rugby union
Rugby union remains among the most vulnerable major sports if the pandemic continues to prevent spectators from attending major games. The Rugby Football Union, which largely funds the English game, derives 85% of its income from sold-out Twickenham internationals and its chief executive, Bill Sweeney, has now said the sport needs an urgent government bailout. In a statement, Sweeney said playing this autumn’s Tests and the Six Nations behind closed doors would see losses spiral above £100m. The other home unions are in a similar boat with an increasing possibility that, with Cardiff’s Principality Stadium unavailable, Wales will be forced to face England at a deserted Parc y Scarlets in November. The finances of the club game are even more precarious, with Exeter’s Tony Rowe suggesting every Premiership club is currently losing an estimated £1m per month. Further down the pyramid none of the other leagues in England have been permitted to restart and Sweeney said that the community game would lose up to £86m in revenue as fans are forced to stay away. The RFU’s losses, the statement continued, would make it impossible to invest in elite

The suspension of the pilot scheme is set to rule out a modest 8,000 crowd at Edgbaston on 3 October for T20 Blast Finals Day as English cricket ends a financially-wounding season behind closed doors. The impact of this is negligible amid the sport’s £100m loss but it means, bar a handful of mid-summer trials, it will now be a minimum of 18 months without spectators in grounds going back to the end of the 2019 season. Outside of TV coverage for international cricket and 10 Blast matches on Sky that featured all 18 counties, the ever-improving streaming services for domestic cricket have been the only way to watch. The question of spectators returning next season – a summer that features the launch of the Hundred and India arrive for five Tests – will now hinge on how the wider sporting landscape fares over the winter. Ali Martin

Rugby league
The Rugby Football League had already warned that Covid-19 was costing rugby league up to £2m per week, and the delay of fans returning to matches will not just hit clubs hard. Next month’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley will now almost certainly take place behind closed doors, costing the RFL a significant six-figure sum. Super League clubs remain hopeful they will survive 2020 even if fans do not return, largely thanks to the £16m government loan the sport received in the summer and the multi-million pound broadcast deal it is trying to fulfil by completing this season. But it is beyond that, with uncertainty over whether fans will return for the start of 2021, where even the sport’s elite are fearful of major financial trouble. “It’s the biggest clubs, who have multi-purpose stadiums that are now basically being mothballed for months, that are the concern,” one chief executive told the Guardian. “Season ticket sales at many clubs next year are already critical. If they aren’t strong, the sport won’t get through this in one piece.” Aaron Bower


All but a handful of Britain’s 59 racecourses earn most of their annual revenue from paying spectators. For the most popular tracks, like Ascot, Cheltenham, Goodwood and York, the figure is between 70 and 80% . As a summer Flat season without crowds draws to a close, the news that the winter National Hunt season – including the Cheltenham Festival in March – is also likely to be run behind closed doors is potentially catastrophic. “The delay to the public’s return to sport events is deeply frustrating” the British Horseracing Authority said, “after so much effort has been put into carrying out pilots within the rules agreed with government and local health authorities”. David Armstrong, chief executive of the Racecourse Association, warned: “It puts a lot more pressure on courses that were already under pressure. Many racecourses have made redundancies and this announcement is likely to lead to more.” Greg Wood

Despite the significant financial implications of staging major boxing events without crowds, promoter Eddie Hearn has insisted that all his scheduled shows will still go ahead – including Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title fight with Kubrat Pulev on 12 December. That contest, which was pencilled in to be staged at the O2 in front of over 5,000 spectators, is still expected to be held in Britain. However Hearn will examine other possibilities after the news British fans may not be able to return to sporting events for another six months. “Our intention now is to carry on with all our scheduled events,” Hearn told the Daily Mail. “Clearly the finances are affected by not having crowds, even smaller crowds, but we’re working to keep our schedule. That includes Joshua. We’ll go ahead in December for Joshua because it’s been a year since he fought Andy Ruiz and he needs to fight.” Sean Ingle

The European Tour and Scottish government had announced plans to allow 650 spectators to attend each of the closing two rounds of the Scottish Open as part of a pilot scheme on 3 and 4 October. No spectators have attended European Tour events since March, including a batch held in England and Wales post-lockdown. Keith Pelley, the Tour’s chief executive, has warned players that “the pandemic is going to have a profound impact on the Tour financially.” The Tour is still seeking clarity on whether the Scottish plan, which was restricted to those living close to the Renaissance club in East Lothian, will hold. Although nothing has been said publicly, it is understood the Tour had also hoped the DCMS would allow a small number of spectators into the following week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The governmental pause on pilot programmes would suggest this is highly unlikely. Ewan Murray