Dominic Raab has confirmed plans are being drawn up to resume the Premier League season behind closed doors.
Dominic Raab says scientific and medical advice will be crucial to determining when the Premier League and sport more broadly can get back underway. The English top flight has been suspended since the middle of March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has now claimed more than 29,000 lives in the UK alone.
Premier League clubs are hoping to resume the 2019/20 campaign in the week commencing June 8, with Project Restart drawn up to provide a long pathway back to normality.
Raab admits the return of football and wider sport would provide a boost to the nation, which is currently in lockdown.
But the Foreign Secretary insists a decision on when the action can start again cannot be made too hastily, with scientific and medical advice to be factored in.
“I think it would lift the spirits of the nation [for sport to return],” said Raab on Tuesday. “I think it people would like to see us get back, not just to work and get back to a stage where children can safely go to school, but to some of those pastimes and to sport in particular.
“I know the government’s had constructive meetings with sports bodies [over] plans for athletes to resume training, when it’s safe to do so. I can tell you that the Culture Secretary [Oliver Dowden] also has been working on a plan to get sports played behind closed doors when we move to the second phase. So that’s something I can tell you we’re looking at.
“Coming back to the key point, though, we can only do it when the scientific advice is that it can be done safely and sustainably. But, certainly, that’s something under active consideration.”
Staging sporting events behind closed doors for the time being is envisaged as the safest way to avoid risks associated with the persisting threat of coronavirus.
Raab says it is too early to predict when fans will be able to attend events as work goes on behind the scenes to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.
“I can’t look too far into the future because there are various different ways we can get control of the virus, permanently, defeat it for good,” Raab said. “The vaccine is one of those. Therapeutics are another.
“I think we’re all waiting to see how effective national test, track and tracing can be. I think that’s also an option. But whether it’s a combination of test, track and tracing and other social distancing measures within what’s possible within a sporting environment.
“We want to see behind closed doors what the options are for doing that. I think it’s worth taking a close look at that, seeing whether it’s possible to do it safely. But, as ever, taking the scientific and medical advice as to when and how to proceed.”
Premier League chiefs, meanwhile, are in talks to broadcast all of the remaining 92 fixtures of this season live on Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon and on YouTube.