Rumours of a possible delay to the final stage of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, which would see social distancing restrictions lifted, have raised questions about what will happen at sports events in the coming weeks.
Sports are desperate to increase capacities above the current limit of 10,000 spectators, or 25 per cent of stadium capacities at smaller venues with major events, including Wimbledon just weeks away.
To date, only those fixtures that have been part of the government’s Events Research Programme have been allowed more than 10,000 fans.
The Football Association was required to give UEFA a commitment that at least 22,500 fans will attend each of the eight games hosted in London.
However, if Freedom Day on June 21 is pushed back it is expected that the country will remain bound by the existing restrictions, with the limits on crowd numbers still in place.
June 21 had been named as the earliest date social distancing can be dropped in England
The FA had to commit to UEFA that Wembley would be 25 per cent full for matches
All eight Euro 2020 games at Wembley will be played in front of a minimum of 22,500 fans
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap created the possibility of full houses after June 21
But Sportsmail understands the government will not row back on its commitment to UEFA and the round of 16 matches on June 26 and 29, semi-finals on July 6 and 7 and final on July 11, will all be allowed to go ahead with at least 22,500 spectators.
But, according to the Telegraph, ministers are prepared to grant Wembley permission to increase attendances even further, up to 45,000 for the round of 16, semi-finals and final.
If England win group D and Germany finish second in Group F, the two nations will meet at Wembley on Tuesday June 29.
The first three matches at Wembley, in Group D, when England play Croatia on June 13, Scotland on June 18 and the Czech Republic on June 22, have been designated test events and are allowed 22,500 fans, who will trial covid certification measures.
Fully vaccinated fans will be allowed to use the NHS app to gain entry in the first time that vaccine passports have been used at a major UK sporting event – everyone else will have to take a test to enter to prove they are Covid-free.
It is believed similar measures will be used to ensure the events are safe in the later rounds, too.
England fans will have a numerical advantage when Scotland visit Wembley in Euro 2020
An announcement on Freedom Day is due on Monday, but there is a growing sense that restrictions may stay in place, due to concerns over the spread of the Indian variant of coronavirus.
Sports governing bodies held crunch talks with government officials today to push the case for covid certification to save the first few weeks of Britain’s Great Summer of Sport.
Retaining existing limits on attendance would directly impact Wimbledon, which is currently restricted to a capacity of 10,000 fans a day compared to a usual attendance of 40,000, and constrain capacities at Twenty20 and ODI cricket internationals against Sri Lanka.
There has been huge interest in the Wimbledon after last year’s event was cancelled
Sportsmail reported on Wednesday that the All-England Club could double its capacity for this year’s tournament if covid certification is allowed. It is believed the club needs a decision within the next two days to make the arrangements for the event that commences on June 28.
Beyond the direct impact of a delay, plans for other huge events would also be plunged into uncertainty with Twenty20 and ODI cricket matches scheduled against Pakistan early next month, and The Open Golf, Rugby League Challenge Cup Final and British Grand Prix at Silverstone all due to take place in mid-July.
Many events are anxious to finalise numbers, not only to maximise attendance where possible, but also to ensure safe management of socially-distanced crowds, where necessary.
Fans returned to Edgbaston to watch England take on New Zealand in the second test
Fans had to undergo lateral flow tests to prove they were Covid-free to gain entry to the ground, but these supporters also dressed as hand sanitisers just to be sure
18,000 fans were at Edgbaston, as well as Covid tests, they could order food from their seats
The meeting between sport and government came on the day that 18,000 fans returned to Edgbaston for the first day of the second test against New Zealand as part of the latest pilot event.
At 70 per cent capacity, it is the first time crowds have been allowed to break social distancing limits at a sports event, since March last year. The safety of the spectators is being secured by requiring all attendees to provide evidence of a negative lateral flow test for Covid on arrival.
In addition, Edgbaston has developed an app, which allows fans to order food and drink from their seats and monitor hotspot areas of crowds, in order to avoid them when collecting their victuals or going to the toilet.
England’s Summer of Sport
Key events after 21 June – the earliest date all restrictions can be lifted:
11 June-11 July: Football – Euro 2020 in various countries, including seven matches at Wembley
28 June-11 July: Tennis – Wimbledon
23, 24 & 26 June: Cricket – England v Sri Lanka T20s
29 June, 1 & 4 July: Cricket – England v Sri Lanka ODIs
8, 10 & 13 July: Cricket – England v Pakistan ODIs
13 July: Athletics – Diamond League: Anniversary Games at London Stadium
15-18 July: Golf – The Open at Royal St George’s
16, 18 & 20 July: Cricket – England v Pakistan T20s
17 July: Rugby League – Betfred Challenge Cup final at Wembley
18 July: Formula 1 – British Grand Prix at Silverstone
4 Aug-14 Sept: Cricket – England v India five Test series
6 August: Football – EFL season commences
14 August: Football – Premier League season commences
19 August: Cricket – Royal London Cup final
21 August: Cricket – The Hundred women’s and men’s finals
18 September: Cricket – Vitality T20 Blast semi-finals and final
28 Sept-1 Oct: Cricket – Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s
3 October: Athletics – London Marathon
9 October: Rugby League – Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford