The whole of the next football season in England could be played in front of reduced capacities says, senior government adviser.
Crowd sizes at matches could also be further impacted if chanting is proven to heighten transmission risk, said Professor James Calder.
The first pilots for the return of crowds to sporting events in England took place with a cricket friendly at The Oval on Sunday, and additional test events are taking place at Edgbaston, the World Snooker Championship and Glorious Goodwood in the next week.
But the Professor, who has chaired the cross-sport working group with government and health officials on the return to sport- has said that events are highly unlikely to have full capacity crowds this year.
“I would be very surprised if we could get full stadia back this year,” he said. “Realistically I think it probably will need a vaccine and also a high take-up rate of that vaccine before we can really see full capacity stadia.”
Asked about whether there was a chance that the next football season would be played in front of reduced capacities, he said: “Possible, yep… I think realistically we will be under scrutiny for the next year, certainly this side of Christmas and probably for the rest of the season.”
Professor Calder has worked with the major sports, Public Health England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the different stages of protocols that have enabled sports to return from the lockdown.
He also revealed that experiments are underway to assess whether droplet spread is increased by chanting and singing, and therefore whether there may be a greater risk of coronavirus transmission.
“At a football or a rugby match, the fans are going to be shouting and chanting and singing, I hope, and we need to be sure that the people in front of them are as safe as possible.
“Now if there is no massive droplet spread, well OK, we can keep within the social distancing that we’ve put down for, say, the Crucible and The Oval. But if it is a problem, then we need to rethink the social distancing within the stadia, and that becomes very difficult.”