What Boris Johnson's expected lockdown delay announcement means for the return of Sunderland fans ahead of pre-season fixtures
Boris Johnson is expected to make a key lockdown announcement today - and Sunderland fans may be wondering what it means for their return to stadia.
We take a look at what is expected to be announced and the knock-on effects it could have for sporting fixtures:
What is Boris Johnson expected to announce today?
The Prime Minister is expected to confirm that the move to step four of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown – which was expected to take place on June 21 – will be delayed by four weeks.
This means that the unlocking of the country will likely take place on July 19.
However, some reports have suggested that a ‘break clause’ could be included in the extension. This would see the government hold an option to move to step four earlier – July 5 has been one suggested date – should hospitalisations not dramatically rise.
Johnson will be speaking at 6pm today to confirm the government’s plans.
What will this mean for Sunderland fixtures and the return of fans?
The announcement will mean that England will remain in step three of the roadmap – meaning capacity limits will remain on sporting events.
The current guidance states that sporting events can take place ‘in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number).’
In larger outdoor venues, where crowds can be socially-distanced, the roadmap states that ‘up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower).’
This means that for some of Sunderland’s early pre-season fixtures, there are likely to be restricted capacities.
So far, the Black Cats have announced just fixture before the reported new unlocking date – the trip to Spennymoor Town on July.
Will this affect fans returning for the start of the League One season?
The revised roadmap is still likely to see the country move into step four before the start of the League One season in August.
However, it has yet to be confirmed whether full capacity crowds at sporting events will be able to return once the new campaign begins.
The EFL are keen to see full stadiums return for the start of the new season.
"The EFL’s aim is to begin the 2021/22 season with full stadia, and we are keen to do all we can with Government and other stakeholders to achieve that aim,” said chief executive Trevor Birch, speaking to FC Business Magazine.
"We’re following the government road map and 21st June is when life should be back to normal any by the start of next season we hope to be back to full capacity.
"But we’re not blind to the fact that there may be local outbreaks, and we are working hand in hand with clubs and authorities.
"We are doing everything we can.”
Streaming options have proved popular this season, and Birch says they will continue into the new campaign.
"The support of fans has also been phenomenal,” he added.
"Streaming will continue, and depending on where we end up with crowds we may be required to look at a hybrid model if we’re not back to full capacity.
"But our aspiration and focus is quite clear: we want and need to be back with full crowds from next season.”