Cricket fans return to the Oval for first live sports event since the start of the pandemic

George Martin
·2-min read
Spectators watch the action from the stands during the friendly match at the Oval on Sunday. (PA)
Spectators watch the action from the stands during the friendly match at the Oval on Sunday. (PA)

Cricket fans returned to the Oval on Sunday for the first sports event played in front of a crowd since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Almost 1,000 spectators were allowed into the 25,000 capacity south London ground to watch Surrey's friendly against Middlesex.

The two-day match at the Kia Oval is the first time fans are able to attend a live sports event in England since March when the nationwide lockdown started.

Strict social distancing measures were in place at the game, with seats left empty to maintain two-metre distances between fans.

Seats were left empty to keep distance between spectators. (PA)
Seats were left empty to keep distance between spectators. (PA)

Alternate rows were also used to increase the distance and advisory signs were on show reminding people to observe the government’s guidelines.

Only a limited number of members were allowed in, with each given assigned seats in a mostly empty stadium.

Food and drink outlets were offering only cashless payments and hand santiser stations were set up in several places around the ground.

Spectators were limited to the use of one end of the stadium, with players and staff taking up the other side.

Surrey and Middlesex will use the match as practice before the season starts on August 1 but the sporting world will be focused on the success of the event in terms of the spectators.

A spectator wearing a face covering takes his seat. (PA)
A spectator wearing a face covering takes his seat. (PA)

A number of other sports are plotting similar live events in the coming weeks as lockdown measures are eased further.

The upcoming World Snooker Championship in Sheffield and the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival are set to be among other pilot events.

A wider return of spectators on a socially-distanced basis to sporting events is set to occur from October 1.

Despite the start date for the football season being confirmed earlier this week, neither the Premier League nor EFL have set a date for fans returning to stadiums.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has spoken previously about a desire to be “guinea pigs” in the return of supporters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And it is understood clubs are keen to invite a limited number of spectators to pre-season matches over the summer.

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