Great Britain

Some big sport events exempt from strict capacity limits despite road-map delay

Some major events of the English sporting summer are set to be exempt from strict capacity limits despite the Government’s decision to delay the easing of all remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Sports venues across England had been hoping to open their doors to spectators in financially viable numbers from next Monday, June 21, but a decision has been taken to delay the final step on the Covid recovery road map for at least four weeks due to a rise in cases linked to the Delta variant of the virus.

However, the PA news agency understands that between 10 and 15 sporting and cultural events over the next four weeks are set to be included in the Government’s extended Events Research Programme (ERP) and therefore be exempt from the strict capacity limits which came into force at step three of the road map on May 17.

England fans at the team's opening Euro 2020 match against Croatia on Sunday

England’s group games at Euro 2020 had already been granted ERP status and will continue to be played in front of crowds of 22,500 – 25 per cent of capacity at Wembley – and it is understood the hope is to go up to at least 50 per cent capacity for one of the last-16 matches at Wembley, plus the semi-finals and final.

The extended ERP will cover a mixture of events and operate up to full capacity in some cases, though whether that is permitted for the Euro 2020 final on July 11 remains to be seen.

The All England Championships at Wimbledon, which start on June 28, and Formula One’s British Grand Prix over the weekend of July 16-18 are two of the other major sporting events understood to be under consideration for test event status.

For those events which are not part of the ERP, the rules will remain as they have since May 17, and stay in place until July 19 at the earliest.

Lewis Hamilton supporters pictured at the 2019 British Grand Prix at Silverstone

For outdoor venues with a seated capacity of 16,000 or above, the limit is 10,000 or 25 per cent of capacity, whichever is lowest.

For outdoor venues with less seating than that, the limit is 4,000 or 50 per cent of capacity, whichever is lowest. For indoor venues, the limit is 1,000 or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is lowest.

That will place further pressure on matchday revenue for many sports clubs and governing bodies, an income stream which has been virtually non-existent during the coronavirus pandemic and something the Government has recognised in its winter and summer sport survival packages.

While the step three restrictions rely purely on social distancing, test events are set to continue to look at other mitigations.

The Euro 2020 group games, for instance, require ticket holders to provide proof of full vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test result.

A number of sporting bodies have supported the idea of some form of Covid certification for entry to events, with Premier League executive director Bill Bush describing it in the past as an “acceptable burden” and saying that the alternative would be tiny crowds and a ban on away fans.

Its chief executive Richard Masters hopes the 2021-22 Premier League season will kick off in front of full capacity venues in mid-August.

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