Sean Ingle Chief sports reporter – The Guardian
For 70 years it has been a fixture in the sporting summer, with motor racing legends such as Stirling Moss, Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton all taking the chequered flag. But now the British Grand Prix is under threat after sporting bodies failed to win an initial exemption from strict new quarantine rules for incoming travellers to the UK.
Government sources have told the Guardian that they still hope that a solution might be found to allow two races to be staged at Silverstone on 26 July and 2 August – with suggestions that Formula One personnel could yet be included in a revised list of exemptions in three weeks’ time.
A government source said: “We are aware that there are a number of high profile international sporting events due to take place over the summer. These events are putting in place stringent protocols so that they can operate. We will work with them in the coming weeks and will set out more detail at the next review point.”
But the news is still a bitter blow to Formula One’s owners, who had lobbied the government extensively in recent weeks. Not only did they point out that a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine restriction would make staging the British Grand Prix untenable, they also warned the government that it would have a major impact on tens of thousands of jobs linked to the sport, given that seven of the 10 F1 teams are based in the UK.
The new quarantine rules could have major implications for the other remaining sporting events this summer, including Champions League football and Diamond League athletics. However government officials have told the Guardian that they were not shutting the door on elite sport, and that the temporary health measures will be reviewed regularly.
F1 has already said it had planned to create a closed biosphere for personnel at races, with everyone attending being tested regularly for coronavirus. Ten of the 22 grands prix scheduled for this year have been postponed or cancelled, but organisers still hope to stage the minimum 15 races required to meet broadcast obligations.
If Silverstone is removed from the programme, the races are likely to be staged in Hockenheim in Germany. The other races will be held around Europe and British-based teams will be forced to spend several weeks on the road.
The government’s new rules are likely to have less impact on European football, with Uefa understood to be considering a mini-Champions League tournament in a single location in August rather than continuing to play home and away matches, even if the domestic season resumes in the coming weeks. Any proposals are likely to be debated at an executive committee meeting on 17 June.
There is also optimism that they will not affect the cricket season, with the West Indies and Pakistan already factoring in a potential 14-day quarantine period for their tours of England in the summer provided they are given the go-ahead to take place. Pakistan are understood to be seeking clarification on whether the team is permitted to quarantine together in a hotel that is connected to a cricket ground and train during this time.
As things stand, any breaches to the new rules would be punishable with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England, or prosecution with an unlimited fine, while devolved nations can set out their own enforcement approaches.