THE Football Association will press on with plans to enable fans to return to football stadiums following the Government's latest update.

The Government plans for a socially-distanced return of spectators to sports stadia by October.

An FA statement read: "We welcome the Government's positive update today which means we and our football partners can step up our efforts to get fans back into stadiums as soon as possible.

"Supporters are the lifeblood of our national game, and that has been underlined by how much their absence has been felt at matches over the last month."

The FA added: "We pay tribute to everyone that has worked so hard to get matches on in these challenging times, including the Emirates FA Cup semi-finals to be played at a behind-closed-doors Wembley Stadium this weekend, but elite-level football without fans is simply not the same.

"We will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities on how we can bring them back in a safe and secure manner, including any help we can provide to the proposed pilot events.

"This work will go hand in hand with the imminent return of grassroots football, our planning for the resumption of men's and women's international fixtures and the return of women's football with the Barclays FA WSL and Women's FA Cup."

Mass gatherings at sports grounds have been banned since March as part of social distancing measures brought in to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

But as Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out the next stage of the recovery road map, he said the government were working towards crowds returning after some test events.

"We will pilot larger gatherings in venues such as sports stadia with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn," he said at a Downing Street briefing on Friday.

"All of these measures, for August 1, should be done in a Covid-secure way.

"From October we intend to bring back audiences in stadia and allow conferences and other business events to recommence, again these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way subject to the successful outcome of pilots."

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has previously said top-flight clubs are keen to act as "test pilots" for any experiments around a phased reopening of stadiums.

He has said that football will not be "back with a capital B" until crowds return.

Depending on how many fans are allowed back, it could be a major boost to the finances of clubs in the English Football League who rely heavily on matchday revenue.

The upcoming World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival and two men's county cricket friendly matches are set to be among the pilot events.

The Government said the "events have been carefully selected to represent a range of sports and indoor and outdoor spectator environments".

The World Snooker Championships begin on July 31 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, while Surrey's friendly with Middlesex on July 26 and 27 has also been earmarked, as has Goodwood, which starts on August 1.

A statement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the test events were taking place in order "to build up to and prepare for the full, socially distanced return of sporting events from October 1, 2020".

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: "For months, millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top-class sporting event. So I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with a plan to help venues safely reopen their doors to fans.

"I recognise that not every sport, team or club has the benefit of huge commercial revenue, and it is often their dedicated fans that are the lifeblood which helps keep them going. By working closely with sports and medical experts, these pilots will help ensure the safe return of fans to stadia.

"Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country."

Attendance at sporting events for the foreseeable future will be subject to a number of strict conditions.

These include venues being ordered to provide information on measures being taken to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 infection, a code of behaviour for spectators advising them to take a responsible approach, such as staying away if suffering from any symptoms of the virus, careful control of seat bookings to ensure social distancing is observed, providing alternatives to spectators to help them avoid using public transport and providing additional hygiene facilities.

An EFL spokesperson reacted to the news by saying: "Clearly today's significant announcement by the Prime Minister starts to provide some clarity as we collectively work towards the reopening of turnstiles and welcoming fans back into stadia at EFL clubs.

"We will continue to work with our colleagues at DCMS, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) and the wider football family in order to deliver on the timeframe and to assist clubs with the inevitable operational and financial challenges this will bring."

The England and Wales Cricket Board welcomed the move.

A statement read: "From the outset of this crisis, we've worked in partnership with the UK government on the safe return of cricket, both at professional and recreational levels.

"The return of fans to stadia is the next step and we are pleased that this announcement allows cricket to be among the first pilot events.

"There is now a significant amount of work to carry out ahead of these pilots, and we will continue to work closely with the government to assess what additional planning and safety measures are needed for supporters to be able to return safely to cricket grounds."