The All-Party Parliamentary Groups for Events and Sports have jointly written to the secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden MP (pictured), to ask for further clarity on how Covid-19 testing might work ahead of the planned reopening on 21 June, as announced by Boris Johnson, 22 February.
In the letter, APPG chairs Theresa Villiers MP (events) and Ben Bradley MP (sport) asked for clarity that if proof of a negative test is to become a means of reviving larger scale events and fixtures, how it would work in practice. “How would testing hundreds of thousands of people work; what would be the waiting time for results,” the letter read.
Further questions raised included how impersonation problems would be tackled and whether or not the necessary technology could realistically be in place ahead of reopening by 17 May or 21 June.
Villiers and Bradley also sought clarification on the issue of who would pay for testing.
The letter also asked for a firmer reopening date. “It is of course good news that some venues may be able to open, and smaller events take place from 17 May,” the letter read. “While 21 June is indicated as a potential start date for larger events, this is still only conditional on the outcome of reviews and pilots. We are very keen for a firmer date to be set.”
Both the events and sports industries fall under the sponsorship of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Villiers and Bradley also used the letter to express concern that the planned pilot events would be starting too late (12 April) and urged minister Dowden to ensure that studies from the previous event pilots, which took place in the autumn, would be drawn upon.
“We are concerned that these [pilots] are not scheduled to take place until mid-April, and therefore we would urge you to consider to bring forward these pilots so greater certainty can be provided to the sports and events industries as soon as possible,” the letter read.
“We would appeal to you to ensure that data from previous pilot studies from November should be taken into account in this new programme.
“The new set of pilots need to focus on a risk-based solution that is dependent on the situation, venue, audience numbers, and type of event. Any new requirements in relation to proof of a test or a vaccination need to be proportionate, operationally feasible, affordable and consistent with protection of individual privacy.”
High Street revival
The APPG chairs also took the opportunity to put the events and sports industries forward as a means to revive the High Street. In the letter, Villiers and Bradley said that events and sport could help rejuvenate and level up town centres, and play their part in the post-pandemic economic recovery.
“Our town centres were struggling even before Covid. The pandemic has hit them hard,” the letter read. “The events and sports industries could perform a really positive role in rejuvenating and levelling up our town centres and bringing people back to their local high streets.
“This is a further reason why the matters raised in this letter need to be urgently considered so the two industries, events and sport, can play their full part in the economic recovery from Covid which we need to deliver.”