The Government are hopeful of full stadia at this summer’s European Championship with plans underway to ensure the return of fans for the tournament.
With nationwide restrictions on outdoor sport and recreation lifted today as part of the UK’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, attentions have begun to turn towards the professional game and the return of supporters to sporting events.
Under the current plans, stadiums will be allowed to open at reduced capacities from May 17, with the roadmap allowing up to 10,000 fans to return for the final fixture of the Premier League season.
Provided the UK continue to make progress and Covid-19 infection rates fall, all restrictions could potentially be lifted by June 21, raising the prospect of full stadiums at this summer’s European Championship.
The tournament is set to begin on June 11 and last until July 12, with several fixtures – including the semi-finals and final – to be played at Wembley.
Sports minister, Nigel Huddlestone, has spoken on the possibility of full stadiums and says he is ‘confident’ that ‘large numbers’ will be allowed to attend fixtures, but insists there are no guarantees as the UK continues to deal with the threat of the ongoing pandemic.
“I am confident that we will get a large number of fans back in stadia. I can’t guarantee it’s going to be full capacity but it’s absolutely a goal,” he told The Times.
“Certainly as we proceed through the summer we hopefully might get closer to that but it all depends on how things are going.
“People’s physical, mental and financial health has been hit for six by coronavirus so we have to get back to as close a version of reality, so we do want to have a summer of fun and people enjoying themselves again. We are planning for stadia to be as full as possible but we can’t guarantee 100 per cent.”
Amongst the concepts considered has been ‘vaccine passports’ to allow those vaccinated to attend, though Huddlestone admits the proposals could cause ‘moral and ethical’ problems.
There is a strong chance that many younger people may not have been offered the vaccine by the point of the European Championship, whilst several may also reject the chance to be vaccinated.
Huddlestone says a hybrid solution could be found between the proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 tests to allow fans of all ages and beliefs to attend fixtures.
“You can potentially see a mix of things going on, a scenario where people who have proof of vaccination get a tick but if you are not vaccinated you can come but do a lateral flow test,” he said.
“If it is a route to opening up more fully or earlier and making sure businesses become viable — sport included — that’s something I’m really keen we pursue. I recognise there are some moral and ethical as well as logistical considerations.”