Culture secretary Oliver Dowden acknowledged that there is an “inconsistency” in sports fans unable to attend games at outdoor stadiums while indoor events take place.
But he did struggle to provide a clear justification for the decision beyond just the quantity of events as frustration continues to grow over the double standards.
Supporters were set to return to stadiums in a limited capacity from October 1, but the plans were shelved after a rise in coronavirus infections, much to the aggrievement of fans and clubs after test events proved to be successful.
And while outdoor sports stadiums remain off-limits indefinitely, October has seen a number of events take place in the capital indoors with thousands of people in attendance, including ballet and a Q&A with Arsene Wenger.
It is the latest in a line of contradictory guidelines and Dowden was asked to address the ban on sports attendances when other indoor venues were starting to welcome patrons on Wednesday.
“I accept people’s frustration at the inconsistency there,” Dowden told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. “But all I can do is explain to you how this has come about.
“In relation to sports, we had sports on a path to return to normality, and indeed sports were the first to get on the first stage of return to normality, with football behind closed doors.
“The clear advice from the scientists was that we should be imposing restrictions and not further easements. It is worth noting the difference in terms of quantity.
“If we had social distancing for sports, a lot of people would be coming week in, week out, going to sport stadiums, up and down the country.
“It is an easement that contrasts to socially distanced indoor performance. Clearly, people have noticed the Palladium but they’re actually very few socially distanced indoor performances going on – they’re not massively financially viable, so it’s a different scale.
“I understand people are concerned about it. The only answer available at the moment, though, is to say, ‘well, we won’t permit indoor performances socially distanced’, and I think, given at this stage that of course all these things are kept under review, but the volume of them, that that’s not happening at the moment.”
While there seems to be an acceptance that stadiums can successfully cater to social distancing and thorough protocols, the concern appears to centre around movement before and after games.
Movement which was not to involve away fans this season and staggeringly, as reported by the Independent, Dowden was informed by Rick Parry, the chairman of the English Football League, that 66 percent of EFL fans travel by car.
To which he responded: “That’s really surprising.” A clear and obvious lack of research on a topic which appears to be the crux of their decision on sports fans.
While there is certainly a case to be cautious amid an increase in cases in the UK, it is the double standards which are proving increasingly infuriating.