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7th March 2021

UK Government To Allow Fans Back Into Sporting Venues

UK Government To Allow Fans Back Into Sports Venues
UK Government To Allow Fans Back Into Sports Venues

The UK Government have announced that thousands of fans will be allowed back at elite sports events from May 17th 2021. But it is just 10,000 of them they would be allowed into venues for a live sporting event.

According to the announcement, 10,000 supporters will allowed at the biggest venues – like Wembley and large Premier league football grounds – but relaxation of the rules will come too late for the FA Cup final.

Speaking in the Commons today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed plans for a cautious return of supporters to attend top level sport in time for the last round of Premier League fixtures, the European Championships, Wimbledon and the Rugby League World Cup, among other stellar events in the nation’s summer of sport.

The UK Government roadmap to easing lockdown restrictions sets out four key steps. The document reveals that fans will return to stadiums and indoor arenas in Step Three from May 17 and in Step Four, from June 21.
It appears that in Step Four there will be NO limits on stadium capacities if the virus is still in retreat, and where Government scientists believe it is safe with testing used to reduce the risk of infection.

Earlier than that though, from May 17, indoor venues will be allowed to admit up to a maximum of 1,000 spectators, or half their capacity if that figure is lower.

From May 17, indoor venues will be allowed to admit up to a maximum of 1,000 spectators, or half their capacity if that figure is lower.
For outdoor events, there will be a maximum of 4,000 fans allowed, or half a venue’s capacity (whichever figure is lower).

However, at the biggest stadiums, such as Wembley, a maximum of 10,000 fans will be allowed, or a quarter of capacity (whichever figure is lower).

It is still not clear which stadiums qualify as these ‘biggest’ venues… so it remains to be seen whether Test matches and Wimbledon, among others, will be allowed up to 10,000 fans or just 4,000.

The UK government roadmap document said: ‘The Government will also make a special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.

In addition, pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing.’

The announcement means that the last round of Premier League games will be played in front of fans, with all that entails for the Championship, European places and relegation.

However, the FA Cup Final is currently scheduled to be played ahead of the deadline. Sportsmail understands that the FA is aware of the situation, although it is unclear at this stage whether the match will be moved.

As reported by Sportsmail earlier today, the timings mean the Carabao Cup Final between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on April 25 will miss out and is likely to be played at Wembley in front of empty stands.

The roadmap does allow for further lifting of restrictions from March 29, but this is set to be modest and return the country to small outdoor gatherings of two families or a group of six people during April.

Johnson has been clear that he intends to take a cautious approach to easing restrictions and it will not be until the beginning of Step Four, from June 21, at the earliest, that crowd numbers can rise above the limits set out in Step Three.

The document states that Step Four will ‘enable large events above the Step 3 capacity restrictions, subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme’.

Elite sport learned a lot from test events last summer, including a friendly between Bright and Chelsea at the Amex, and the admission of fans during the tiers system, which allowed up to 4,000 supporters to attend events, during December.

Football sources say the aim is to be ready, whenever the UK government gives the green light.

Events will utilise the learning from previous events, which were based on social distancing measures.

That approach may be augmented by the findings of the government’s Sports Technology and Innovation Group, which has continued to work on solutions to make sport even safer.

Previously, as sport prepared to ramp up attendances at events, it was widely expected that additional capacity would be achieved through extensive use of rapid, lateral flow tests.

This would allow organisers to identify people who are carrying the virus, even if they have no symptoms, and prevent them from attending.

Like the rest of the country, expectations within elite sport have risen and fallen as the pandemic has developed.

Fans were banned from stadiums in March last year as the virus took hold. However, test events were held in the summer, including a friendly game between Brighton and Chelsea at the Amex Stadium, and delivered positive results and showed sport could manage the safe return of some, socially-distanced fans.

At that stage, it had been hoped that fans would begin to return in larger numbers in the autmn and winter, with further tests scheduled for October.

As infection rates rose, those events were cancelled. The introduction of the tier system in early December allowed up to 4,000 fans to be admitted to stadiums in tier one areas and up to 2,000 in tier two, but none in tier three.

However, rapidly rising infection rates led to the country being placed under tier four restrictions at the end of December and in early January a full lockdown was imposed.

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