FOOTBALL fans will not be allowed back into stadia next month, as originally planned, the Government has confirmed.

Cabinet office minister Michael Gove said on BBC Breakfast this morning that the phased return of crowds, which was due to begin on October 1, has now been “paused” because of a spike in Covid-19 cases.

“It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning,” he said. “It wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadia thronged with fans.

“We are looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme.

“But what we do want to do is make sure that as and when the circumstances allow, we get more people back because the virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors.

“It is in the nature of major sporting events that there is a lot of mingling and people look back at the start of the pandemic and some of the major sporting events that happened then and ask the question: Why were they allowed to go ahead?

“One of the things we have to do now – whatever the wisdom of the decisions made then – is to look at sporting events now with caution.

“But of course we also recognise that sport is a vital part of the life of this nation and we are looking at everything we can do to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be a challenging time.”

Several pilot schemes had been sanctioned last weekend, allowing 1,000 people into selected EFL games. It was hoped that further tests could be carried out over the next couple of weeks but with restrictions now being introduced around the UK to curb the virus spread, it is considered unwise to press ahead.

Rovers saw their hopes of hosting a pilot game against Wycombe last Saturday blocked due to the high infection rate in the local area while on Monday Accrington Stanley said they were waiting on news of their request to make this Saturday’s home game with Oxford United their test event.

The ‘pause’ could have devastating effects for sporting clubs across the board.

It has been claimed by the BBC that the National League will not start its competition until fans are allowed back in to watch games.

Pressure is mounting on the government to provide some financial assistance to professional and grassroots clubs.

A letter signed by more than 100 organisations has warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that there will be a “lost generation” of sport and activity without intervention.

The letter states: “We are united in our concern that at a time when our role should be central to the nation’s recovery, the future of the sector is perilous.

“Covid–19 has exposed the fragility of vital services and assets, with sports clubs and fitness facilities facing permanent closure, depriving local communities of facilities and programmes on which they depend.

“Covid-19 has undermined our commercial revenue streams with both stadia and leisure facilities closed or greatly reduced in capacity. The impact of this will potentially lead to a lost generation of sport and activity. In order to play our fullest role, we must survive and stabilise.”