Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed spectators would not be allowed to return to sports venues as part of new restrictions which could last for up to six months.

The government had been building towards a phased return from October 1 since the summer, but it has been put on hold due to fears over a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove this morning said "a mass reopening at this stage wouldn't be appropriate".

And it was confirmed by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of a range of restrictions in the House of Commons which could last well into next year.

He said: "We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments, new forms of mass testing, but unless we palpably make progress we should assume the restrictions I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months."

On sport in particular, he said: “We have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events.

“So we will not be able to do this from October 1 and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs which are the life and soul of our communities, and my right honourable friends the Chancellor and the Culture Secretary are working urgently on what we can do now to support them.”

It is a big blow to clubs which rely on ticket revenue for survival and there have already been calls from governing bodies across sport for the government to provide emergency funding.

The news comes after seven grounds hosted test events across the EFL last weekend with crowds of 1,000.

Oxford United had intended to use their next home game, against Crewe Alexandra on October 3, as their pilot scheme.

That will now not go ahead, with the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee confirming all scheduled pilot events - including the U's trip to Accrington on Saturday - would be played behind closed doors. 

The next stage was to allow fans in on a socially-distanced basis, with a capacity of 25-35 per cent.

For the Kassam Stadium, it would mean gates of between 3,100 and 4,340, but the seven-month wait for U's fans to return to the ground will now be extended.

While no timeframe has been suggested over for how long the pause will go on, the derby with Swindon Town on October 24 could be among the extra games to be played behind closed doors. 

The EFL has estimated its clubs will lose a collective £200million without fans in stadiums for the whole of the 2020-21 season.

It also throws into doubt what happens with the National League, which includes Oxford City.

The league season is due to start on October 3, but there are suggestions that could be postponed if fans are not allowed in.

Fixtures in leagues below the National League have allowed a limited number of spectators since August.