WHO casts doubt over the return of fans into sports venues

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has cast doubt over the optimism of seeing spectators being reintroduced to sporting events in the near future, calling the idea “unrealistic”.


Michael Ryan, the WHO emergencies director, reportedly claimed that seeing large numbers of fans attending sports events could reverse the positive progress made by most of the world in reducing the number of Covid-19 cases.


AFP reported that Ryan stated: “Large crowds of 40, 50, 60,000 people – it’s not just the risk of being in the stadium, it’s the risk of going to the stadium, the public transport, the bars and the clubs.”


“We all want our sport back,” he said. “We’re just going to have to be careful for a good bit longer.”


Ryan recommended that most sports venues should begin allowing spectators back slowly, starting off at around 1,000-2,000.


When asked on a time frame of when it would be safe for fans to return to stadiums, the Irish epidemiologist refused to provide with certainty any answer.


“We don’t know,” he started. “Large crowds of 40, 50, 60,000 people — it’s not just the risk of being in the stadium, it’s the risk of going to the stadium, the public transport, the bars and the clubs.


“Imagine all the problems we have now with nightclubs and bars, and you squeeze all of that together into a four- or five-hour experience, where thousands of people go on the same public transport to a venue, get involved in the social aspects before a game, be involved in the game and then all of the social aspects after.

“In the context of community transmission, that could be disastrous.”


Sport has already suffered greatly from the rescheduling of large events, including both the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and the European Football Championships, alongside many domestic leagues who despite being allowed to take place, must now be played behind closed doors.

There are currently only a few countries and sports that have begun the process of allowing fans back in to watch sports live, namely, Japanese and South Korean Baseball and football, as well as Australia where sports fans can enjoy rugby union, the National Rugby League, A-League and the Australian Football League from the venue itself.


New Zealand, who have been highly commended for their handling of the Covid-19 crisis, saw 55,000 fans descend on the first two games of the Super Rugby Aotearoa and has done so without seeing a rise in cases in the country, unlike in Vietnam, where a breakout of the disease in Danang has left the authorities with no choice but to suspend football matches for the foreseeable future.



Author: Jake Wilkin


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