FURTHER pilot sport events with spectators in attendance will now not take place in the first two weeks of August, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

A two-day county cricket friendly between Surrey and Middlesex took place with spectators in attendance earlier this week, but it appears that for the time being that will be as far as it goes in a tightening of restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“Pilots of crowds at sports events will now not take place,” the Prime Minister said.

It is understood Premier League clubs had been hoping to admit supporters at pre-season friendlies next month on a socially-distanced basis.

It comes after it was announced that people from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of east Lancashire and West Yorkshire would be banned from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in virus cases.

Two matches in cricket’s Bob Willis Trophy starting on Saturday had been due to welcome spectators this weekend - Surrey v Middlesex at the Oval and Warwickshire v Northamptonshire at Edgbaston.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement: “We understand this is disappointing for supporters who have waited a long time to see their clubs in action and were looking forward to attending pilot events at the Kia Oval and Edgbaston this weekend.

“However, we understand the reasons the Government has made this decision, and remain ready to work with them to ensure supporters can safely return to stadiums when Government advice allows.

“We are pleased the Bob Willis Trophy will still begin this weekend behind closed doors, and fans will be able to watch their teams in action through the online streams being provided.”

Spectators were already at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre for day one of the World Snooker Championship when the announcement regarding crowds was made by the Prime Minister.

Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, tweeted about the developments.

“Very disappointing news that with rise in infection rates we cannot press ahead with sports pilots with fans this weekend I know the huge efforts cricket, snooker & horseracing have made to welcome fans back,” he wrote.

“We’ll keep working together on their safe return asap.”

Surrey vice-captain Rikki Clarke admitted everyone at the club was bitterly disappointed to find out the Oval would not host spectators for days one and two of their Bob Willis Trophy fixture with Middlesex.

2,500 fans were set to attend the county cricket opener, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off the return of spectators on a pilot basis on Friday afternoon.

“It is bitterly disappointing,” Clarke said. “Obviously having the pilot session during the friendly against Middlesex the other day, it was nice to get back in front of a crowd.

“Then the opportunity for the next couple of days with 2,500 people coming in was very exciting. It is devastating news but the health and safety of the public is more important.

“It is a bit disappointing for all the hard work that has gone into getting that ready.”