Fans in UK stadia come with ‘data’ rider



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Fan return in England Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Under new guidelines laid down by the UK Government on February 22nd, 2021, up to 10,000 fans could be allowed in English sports stadia from mid-May.

The above decision has been taken as the COVID-19 situation in United Kingdom is slightly improving with the country speeding up vaccinations.

“The turnstiles of our sports stadia will once again rotate,” said the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Boris Johnson.

In an address to the nation on February 22nd, the Prime Minister stressed the roll-out of the UK’s vaccination program had allowed the Government to draw up this pathway, but that final decisions would be made “on data”.

The plan to ease lockdown requires four tests on vaccines, infection rates and new coronavirus variants to be met.

gov.uk sources stated that the Government’s roadmap details a phased reopening of sectors, with Step 3 – which would come at least five weeks after Step 2 and no earlier than May 17th, 2021 – including a special provision to allow up to 10,000 people or 25 percent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower, at large outdoor venues.

Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is lower, will also be permitted, as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50 percent or 4,000 people, whichever is lower.

The Government has also detailed plans for pilot events to run as part of its Events Research Programme to examine how events with 10,000 people in attendance can take place without the need for physical distancing, using other mitigations such as COVID-19 testing. These pilot events will begin in April 2021.

Step 4 of the roadmap would come into effect no earlier than June 21st and at least five weeks after Step 3, and would potentially allow larger events to take place, with no legal limits on social contact.

gov.uk sources revealed that the announcement on the potential return of fans from May 17th could mean that the final day of the Premier League season on May 23rd will be held with onlookers. The English Football League (EFL) season ends on the weekend of May 8th-9th, but play-off matches held later in the month could be played with in-person attendance.

The Government’s announcement also brightens chances of Wembley Stadium playing host to a significant number of fans during this summer’s rescheduled European Championships, which are due to run from June 11th to July 11th .

Other events such as the Wimbledon tennis Grand Slam, Golf’s Open Championship, Formula 1’s British Grand Prix and cricket internationals could also be held with significant crowd presence if Step 4 does come into effect by June 21st, 2021.

Fans were greeted back in stadia fold in England earlier in the season before the new COVID-19 variant which ravaged UK forced events to be back behind closed doors.

Outdoor sports including football, golf and tennis will be allowed to resume in England from March 29th. Leisure centers, gyms and swimming pools can open from April 12th.

Venues such as gyms, tennis courts and golf courses have been closed across England since lockdown was announced on January 4th.

The Government announcing it will run a series of ‘pilot’ events in April and the English Football League (EFL) has stated that it would be “engaging” with the Government over the potential for a small number of fans to attend the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on April 25th.

Subject to the pilots being successful, “up to 10,000 people or 25 percent of the total seated capacity, whichever is lower” will be allowed in stadia for sporting events, but not before May 17th.

soccerex.com sources quoted a statement from the Football Association, “The FA is absolutely delighted fans will be allowed back soon. The game is simply not the same without them and we look forward to the return of full stadia as soon as it is safe and possible.”

Sport England Chief Executive Tim Hollingsworth stated, “The Prime Minister’s roadmap for the return of sport and physical activity is very welcome and a clear recognition of how important it is to the nation’s physical and mental health. We know people are desperate to get back playing the sport they love and doing the activities they have so badly missed, and now it is at last in sight.”

soccerex.com sources quoted the Lawn Tennis Association as saying, “We know sport has a key role in supporting the physical and mental health of the nation, so its return will give a boost to the whole country, and is very welcome. Clearly, tennis is a naturally socially distanced and safe activity and so we would have liked restrictions to be lifted without delay and made the case for this. However, we’re now focused on supporting venues, coaches, officials and players to prepare for the return of outdoor tennis on March 29th.”

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