Return of sport would ‘lift the nation’ says Dominic Raab at daily briefing

Leicester beat Aston Villa in the last match in the Premier League before lockdown

Restarting sport in Britain would “lift the spirits of the nation” amid the coronavirus crisis, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Tuesday.

Speaking at Downing Street’s daily briefing he said the government “has had constructive meetings with sports bodies”.

He said talks had focused on athletes resuming training when safe to do so.

And he added that the culture secretary was looking at plans to hold sports behind closed doors.

“I think it would lift spirits of the nation,” Raab said.

“People would like to see us get back to work and children can go to school safely but also pastimes like sport.”

Discussions about the Premier League’s return are continuing but there had been no official comment from the government.

The Premier League is hopeful of restarting in the week beginning 8 June with matches behind closed doors. Plans for games at neutral venues have been suggested in a bid to get the season finished.

“I can tell you that the culture secretary has been working on a plan to get sport played behind closed doors when we move to the second phase so that is something we are looking at,” Raab said.

“Of course, the key point though – we can only do it when the medical advice and scientific advice is that it can be done safely and sustainably. But certainly that is something under active consideration.”

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme earlier on Tuesday, health secretary Matt Hancock said he was “open” to the idea of the Premier League returning if there was enough testing being done.

“But we’ve got to make decisions about what the relative priorities are of all the different things that could be reopened,” he added.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt also told the Today programme football should resume.

“It can, and it should. And it is our national sport. And when people are stuck at home, this is the kind of thing that would lift people’s morale and its spirit.”

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