Covid: Spectators return to sporting arenas as part of pilot events trial

Video report by ITV News Reporter Ellie Pitt

Pilot events to trial the return of spectators to sporting events began on Saturday at the Crucible.

One thousand fans were welcomed into the arena to witness Ronnie O'Sullivan begin his defence of the World Championship crown in Sheffield.

The event is the starting point in helping England and sport out of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Crucible is permitted to be utilised up to 33% capacity to allow for social distancing among spectators, with hand sanitiser provided around the arena.

A fan at the Crucible wears a Ronnie O'Sullivan mask. Credit: PA

Six-time world champion O’Sullivan was taking on Mark Joyce in the first session of the tournament, with Martin Gould playing Yan Bingtao on the other table.

All four players walked to the table to applause from the crowd, which was one-third full for the first round.

A spectator uses hand sanitiser before entering. Credit: PA

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn tweeted: “Here we go! Blood sweat and tears but after all the problems and setbacks we are on the brink of a return to normality thanks to the unbelievable efforts of the @WeAreWST team.

“My thanks to everyone involved. Now sit back and enjoy the greatest snooker show on earth.”

The FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton at Wembley on Sunday will be the next pilot event, with 4,000 spectators allowed at the 90,000 capacity stadium.