THE Cheltenham Festival has been given the green light by the Government to go ahead as planned despite growing coronavirus fears.
This week’s domestic football is also set to be played as scheduled while Tottenham’s Champions League trip to Leipzig has also been cleared by the German authorities.
But sports clubs and leagues have been placed on standby to stage events behind closed doors as soon as next week.
While football matches across Europe this week will be played fan-free, that step was not demanded at a meeting of sports governing bodies and senior government officials this morning.
Instead, FA, Premier League and EFL chiefs, alongside RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney, were told to prepare for the likelihood of events being ordered to go ahead without crowds in the near future.
A Department of Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said the “constructive” meeting, which also including broadcasters, was “part of sensible contingency planning in relation to Covid-19.”
The spokesperson added: “This included a discussion of how staging sporting events behind closed doors could work in practice, should the situation change and become necessary.
“However based upon the current scientific advice from the Government’s medical experts there is no rationale to close or cancel sporting events as things stand.
“We will remain in regular dialogue with sports governing bodies and broadcasters, ensuring they are in receipt of the most up to date guidance from the health authorities.”
It was confirmed that Cheltenham, due to start tomorrow, is untouched at this stage while all other domestic sports events are continuing as planned.
The sports bodies were told that there have so far been 319 positive results for the virus in the UK, out of just under 25,000 tests.
Specialists from Public Health England reported “there is presently no rationale to close or cancel sporting events, but this may change as the situation evolves”.
The decision on Spurs’ game came after Leipzig held emergency talks with city authorities this morning after German health minister Jens Spahn suggested events attracting crowds of more than 1,000 should be postponed.
PSG’s game with Dortmund and Valencia’s tie with Atalanta will both be played without fans.
But following the meeting, Leipzig Mayor Burkhard Jung gave his approval and City council spokesman Matthias Hasberg confirmed: “The game will take place with spectators.”
Hasberg added that the fact the Britain is not, so far, designated as a high-risk area was a significant factor in the decision.
He added: “The government recommendations for action still differentiate between events that take place indoors and outdoors.
“The guidelines have not yet been adapted for outdoor events and the decision was made on this basis.”
Liverpool’s game with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday is also expected to take place as scheduled, although Wolves may play behind closed doors in their Europa League tie with Olympiacos.
Uefa is ready to agree that the planned games next week between Juventus and Lyon and Barcelona and Napoli will see fans shut out, with the German government to decide on Chelsea’s visit to Bayern Munich.
At this stage, Manchester City’s game with Real Madrid at the Etihad is expected to have fans allowed unless the Government advice changes.
Meanwhile, the Premier League is set for talks with the broadcasters over potentially screening the games that are not currently due to be televised.
That would mean a temporary lifting of the Saturday afternoon “blackout”, designed to protect attendances at games throughout the country.