UK sports bodies ‘game’ for vaccine passports


All major UK sports bodies back up covid-passport for fans Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Key sports bodies of the United Kingdom have come out in support of the use of vaccine passports and COVID-19 testing as a “credible” way of facilitating the return of fans to the stadia folds this summer.

Present Government plans mean those looking to attend sport, theaters, nightclubs or festivals will be required to display a proof that they have either had the vaccine, a negative test for coronavirus or have developed antibodies from a previous infection.

The ‘CityA.M.’ stated that in a joint letter written by the leading sports bodies to the leaders of the major political parties, the group said it could “see the benefit” of rolling out COVID-19 certifications and rapid testing “in getting more fans safely back as quickly as possible”.

The letter added, “This process must ensure that everyone can access stadia and must include arrangements that would verify a negative coronavirus test or an antibody test alongside vaccination certification.”

The statement from the Football Association (FA – the governing body of association football in England), Premier League (top level of the English football league system), Rugby Football Union (governing body for rugby union in England), and England and Wales Cricket Board (governing body of cricket in England and Wales), among others, urged the Government to offer “certainty as soon as possible” on plans to reopen major sports facilities.

It warned that the present physical distancing measures will be “insufficient to end sport’s COVID financial crisis” and that stadia will need to hit full capacity for sporting businesses to return to profit.

In their letter addressed to the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the leaders of the main Opposition parties, the group of sports bodies warned that the 25 per cent cap on crowds “will be insufficient to end sport’s coronavirus financial crisis”.

This comes on the heels of an interim Government report recently suggesting vaccine passports were “likely to become a feature of our lives” and could “potentially” be used to access nightclubs, festivals and sport events.

The ‘CityA.M.’ further stated that larger outdoor sports venues will be allowed to operate at up to 25 percent capacity from May 17th under the Prime Minister’s roadmap for leaving lockdown, with a maximum of 10,000 spectators.

The 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium in London will only have a maximum of 50 percent capacity for the latter stages of the Euro 2020 matches in July.

‘The Evening Standard’ stated that the leading sports bodies also patted the Boris Johnson Government on its back for initiating measures for the return of spectators to venues – “We welcome the Government’s commitment to securing a return of spectators to sporting events and the support all political parties and the devolved administrations have shown to returning sport at all levels throughout the pandemic. This week’s announcement by the Prime Minister that the Government’s roadmap for easing the lockdown restrictions remains on course is very welcome news.”

The letter added, “Looking ahead to June 21st, we support the Government’s ambition to secure the full return of fans, without restrictions if possible. Of necessity, this will depend upon the Government agreeing that it is safe to lessen or drop social distancing requirements. It is important that we have certainty as soon as possible on the form this guidance will take so we can plan efficiently and effectively with many big sporting events scheduled for late June and onwards.”

‘The Evening Standard’ further quoted the contents of the letter, “The return of fans will give a huge boost to millions who enjoy a day out at a sporting event with their friends and families and be of great benefit to the economy. It is right that every possible action is considered to secure this outcome as soon as possible, but only for as long as an unrestricted return is considered unsafe to fans, matchday staff and the wider public.”

The letter further read, “This includes investigating how a COVID certification arrangement could reduce and then safely remove the requirement for social distancing. There are many issues to be addressed including how the technology would work and its ease of use at major events, for both the attendees and the organizers.”

“All of our sports can see the benefit that a COVID certification process offers in getting more fans safely back to their sport as quickly as possible. We know that our stadia can only be fully filled with an assurance process. This process must ensure that everyone can access stadia and must include arrangements that would verify a negative COVID test or an antibody test alongside vaccination certification.”

“The final approach must not be discriminatory, should protect privacy and have clear exit criteria. We also reiterate that certification should not be a requirement for any form of participation in grassroots sport around the country.”

Premier League players have been using similar “health passports”, provided by the testing company Prenetics, in order to enter the “red zone” on matchdays.

A number of pilots are set to be held before stadia are opened to supporters across the country once more.

Coast not yet clear

All said and done, a clear picture has still not emerged as to whether social distancing measures will cease on June 21st as outlined by the Prime Minister’s roadmap, amid concerns that new variants of the virus could play spoilsport as far as the nation’s vaccine program is concerned.

Boris Johnson has not yet said ‘aye’ to the idea of introducing vaccine passports, but hinted recently that it was right to look at “all possibilities”.

Seeing red

However, plans to roll out COVID-19 certifications have not gone down well with the libertarian-minded Tory MPs, who have warned that they will carve up the nation into a two-tier society.

The former Conservative leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, stated recently that there is “a lot of concern about” the possibility of domestic vaccine passports among the Tory ranks and questioned – “I just don’t see how it will work and the hospitality sector is up in arms – it’s very difficult to implement and it’s really intrusive. We’re planning on having everyone vaccinated, so why would you have vaccine passports?”

The former Cabinet Minister, David Davis, fumed, “Whitehall salivates over identity management. I don’t want Whitehall managing my identity very much, my identity belongs to me not to the State, and I don’t want them utilizing my data.”

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