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Oliver Dowden declares ‘football’s coming back’ as competitive sport can resume behind closed doors

Football can resume behind closed doors, as it has already in Germany (PA)

2 min read

From Monday elite athletes will be able to resume competitive sport behind closed doors in England for the first time in three months.

Culture Secretary Dowden told the Downing Street daily briefing: "I can now make it official: football is coming back."

And he said the Government is also focusing on getting grassroots competition and women's teams "back up and running".

"Visibility matters, and our daughters deserve to see female athletes on the main stage," he said.

But the Cabinet minister said various measures needed to be in place for sporting events to go ahead safely.

"That includes a screening process for coronavirus symptoms at the venue, a one-way system for people and vehicles, minimising the use of dressing rooms and of course maintaining social distancing wherever that is possible,” he explained.

And Mr Dowden also set "two challenges" for the return of football, which has a "special place in our national life".

"First, that a reasonable number of remaining Premier League games will be broadcast free-to-air,” he said.

"Second, that the financial benefits of returning will be shared throughout the entire football family.

"I'm glad to confirm today that a third of matches to finish the season will now be free to view including the Liverpool v Everton derby and live Premier League football will be on the BBC for the first time in its history."

As well as elite sport, groups of up to six people from different households will be able to exercise together outside from Monday.

Mr Dowden said: "We have all become a nation of early morning walkers, (Joe) Wicks workout-ers and evening park runners, and many of us have discovered how valuable and therapeutic physical activity can be.

"And I hope that we'll continue to make time for it even as life returns to normal."

The Government will be publishing further guidance on the new rules, which will include advising people to wash their hands and avoid sharing sports equipment, but outdoor gyms, playgrounds and swimming pools will remain closed.

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