Coronavirus: Sports and arts fans ‘could wait years’ for recovery

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It could be years before we see crowded stadiums again, says Lord Elis-Thomas

Sports and arts fans are not likely to be filling venues again for years, according to Wales’ deputy culture and sport minister.

Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said “social responsibility” not to spread the virus would guide any relaxing of restrictions.

The Welsh Government has pledged £85m to culture, heritage and sport.

But Lord Elis-Thomas warned a Senedd committee he was “pessimistic” about the recovery of these sectors.

Arts and sports organisations need a “total change of attitude”, he said.

The Welsh Government’s financial package includes a £14m fund for sports and leisure facilities.

But Lord Elis-Thomas said failing to mitigate the risk from Covid-19 when resuming events would only contribute to the spread of the disease.

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Ben Morgan

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Theatr Clwyd has staged trial events

Asked by Conservative MS David Melding whether culture and sports organisations would be in shape by the spring to safely resume events attended by the public, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said the public’s safety could not be compromised.

“The notion that we have a social responsibility not to infect each other has to be central, absolutely central. That is the strong public health message that we have given to all of our cultural organisations. And this is without compromise,” he said.

“There can be no trading-off of reviving activity that might damage the public health necessity. Because what is the point of having art or sport if people are sick?”

He added there needs to be a total change of attitude on the part of events organisers and promoters, even within the maximum groupings of 30 people that are currently permitted to gather outside.

“We have to have a new priority, a new way of understanding, and part of this is the cultural change that has already happened among the population. Although not everywhere, because we wouldn’t be having the spikes that we have seen, and are still seeing,” he said.

‘It will be a matter of years’

Trial events by Theatr Clwyd in Mold, which has recently held shows outdoors, have reassured Lord Elis-Thomas the arts industry was prepared to adapt.

He added it was “heartening to see that people have a strong sense of responsibility” when it comes to tackling coronavirus. But he remained concerned about the recovery of the arts and sports sectors he oversees.

“When this pandemic first hit us, I was always warning that we need to look at the public health position and to keep it as the front issue at all times, and then we examine the cultural impact. And then we look at the possibility of recovery,” he said.

“I am still very pessimistic about the way the recovery is likely to happen. I don’t think it is a matter of months, I think it will be a matter of years. That applies, I am afraid, to all four sectors for which I have responsibility.”