Crowds are returning to F1 and the Tour de France – will other sports follow?

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As Formula 1 cars raced across the track during Sunday’s Grand Prix in Tuscany, they were watched by a crowd of 2,800 fans after COVID-19 measures were relaxed for the Italian event.During the Tour de France, thousands of cycling fans also gathered along the roads to spot their favorite riders after the organizers allowed their presence.

But elsewhere in Europe, many other professional sports will continue to be played behind closed doors to avoid mass gatherings of people who could spread the virus, as different countries and sports take contrasting approaches to contain the disease.

France

Since the easing of its national lockdown in June, France has suffered a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, with more than 10,000 people testing positive for the virus on Saturday.

Despite this wave and fears that harsh measures could be reintroduced, the French government has not implemented a blanket ban on fans attending sporting events.

Instead, the French government applied a ceiling of 5,000 supporters, meaning supporters were able to attend the opening weekend of the Ligue 1 season on August 22.

Thousands of fans have also gathered along the route of the Tour de France, although the wearing of masks is made mandatory at the start and finish line.

United Kingdom

The 2020/21 Premier League season kicked off on Saturday, but matches continue to be played behind closed doors and fans may well be stranded for the entire season.

The UK government had hoped stadiums would be allowed to reopen at 30% capacity by the start of the campaign, but an increase in the number of cases dashed those hopes and saw crowd tests with reduced attendance suspended for the foreseeable future.

In August, 2,500 supporters were allowed to attend Brighton’s friendly against Chelsea to see how clubs could reopen stadiums safely in a socially remote setting. In Scotland, 700 fans have also been allowed into Murrayfield to watch Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors which will act as another test event.

In Doncaster, the opening day of the St Leger festival drew 2,500 fans as part of another pilot sporting event, but the program was scrapped following new measures which were introduced in an attempt to stop the rise cases.

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Italy

The previous eight Formula 1 races have been held behind closed doors, but restrictions on fans have been relaxed for Sunday’s Grand Prix in Tuscany.

The race was billed as a special event to mark Ferrari’s 1,000th F1 Grand Prix and to mark the occasion 2,800 fans were allowed to watch from the stands, having paid £ 500 for the privilege.

However, measures have been put in place to ensure the safety of supporters. Fans have been evenly distributed across the three stands overlooking the Mugello track to ensure social distancing is maintained, while many fans have chosen to wear masks, although they are not mandatory.

The 2020/21 Serie A football season kicks off next Saturday, but no fans will be allowed into the stadium and it is unlikely that they will attend matches until at least early 2021.

Germany

All sports continue to be played behind closed doors in Germany, but the country has conducted an innovative experiment which he hopes will allow crowds to attend mass sporting events.

On August 22, 4,000 fans were allowed to attend an indoor concert with singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko. The participants, aged 18 to 50, wore tracking devices around their necks that emitted signals every five seconds to monitor people’s movements.

Fans also had to wash their hands with fluorescent hand sanitizer which showed the most common potential sources of surface transmission.

Three different versions of the concert were performed; the former saw a standard environment for monitoring people’s behavior in such events before the virus, while for the latter, fans entered through eight different entrances to avoid mix-ups, with all other seats blocked. In the final scenario, only 2,000 fans are allowed in the 12,000-seat hall with 1.5 meters between each seat.

Spain

Ten weeks after Real Madrid celebrated a 34th La Liga triumph, a new football season has begun, even though it is played out a lot in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. With no vaccine in sight, matches will continue to be played without supporters in the stadiums.

La Liga had planned to stagger the return of supporters until September and October, increasing stadium capacity by 30% to full pitches in the new year.

However, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases has put an end to that idea, meaning no fans in the ground for the foreseeable future.

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