THE whole of next season could be played in front of reduced attendances.

Southend United will kick off their League Two campaign in mid-September.

But professor James Calder feels sports events are still unlikely to be played in front of capacity crowds for quite some time.

“I would be very surprised if we could get full stadia back this year,” Calder told BBC Sport.

“Realistically I think it probably will need a vaccine and also a high take-up rate of that vaccine before we can really see full capacity stadia.

“I think realistically we will be under scrutiny for the next year, certainly this side of Christmas and probably for the rest of the season.”

And Calder also revealed experiments were underway to discover if chanting and singing could lead to a greater risk of coronavirus being spread.

“We need to know, actually, does it matter if you’re shouting, how far will those droplets spread?,” said Calder.

“At a football or a rugby match, the fans are going to be shouting and chanting and singing, I hope, and we need to be sure that the people in front of them are as safe as possible.

“Now if there is no massive droplet spread, well OK, we can keep within the social distancing that we’ve put down for, say, the Crucible and the Oval.

“But if it is a problem, then we need to rethink the social distancing within the stadia, and that becomes very difficult.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board announced yesterday that there will be two further cricket pilots this weekend, with 2,500 spectators allowed to attend each day of the Bob Willis Trophy matches taking place at The Oval and Edgbaston.

Neil Snowball, the ECB’s managing director of county cricket, said: “We’re all excited about the start of the county cricket season, and of course we all miss not being able to go and watch as we normally would.

“These two pilots are an important step in testing the government guidance and ensuring we can safely open our grounds again.”

A decision on when the London Marathon can be held has also been pushed back to August 7.

The race is currently due to be held on Sunday October 4.