United Kingdom

Wimbledon singles finals on brink of being first major outdoor event to host full capacity crowd

The Wimbledon singles finals are on the brink of being the first major outdoor events given permission to be at full capacity since the coronavirus crisis.

But the delay to ‘Freedom Day’ until July 19 saw the hopes of sell-out crowds at others of the summer’s crown jewels dashed, with the European Championship final capped at around 50 per cent.

Four of the five Euro 2020 knockout matches at Wembley – all but the last-16 tie in which England cannot feature – and the start of Wimbledon are set to take place at that capacity as part of a fresh wave of crowd pilots.

But Centre Court is expected to be allowed to increase that in the second week of the championships, culminating in sold-out women’s and men’s and singles finals on July 10 and 11, respectively.

The fate of the rest of Britain’s sporting summer was unclear on Monday night, although it seemed certain almost all of it would involve the continuation of restricted capacities.

One exception could be the British Grand Prix, which could yet join Centre Court in being given permission to fill its grandstands.

That would inevitably lead to lobbying for crowd pilot status by other major events such as golf’s Open Championship, England rugby and cricket matches, rugby union’s Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham and rugby league’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley.

As a 550-acre outdoor site, Silverstone is the largest major sporting venue in the UK, with its 70,000 grandstand seats spread around a 3.6-mile track.

The vast majority of the 120,000-plus spectators who usually attend a Grand Prix weekend also travel to the circuit by car.

That would avoid the prospect of thousands being crammed in together on public transport – something seen as far more likely to spread Covid-19 than a relaxation of social distancing in an outdoor grandstand.

Silverstone has been selling tickets on the basis of being at capacity and the Telegraph has been told it is close to a sell-out.

Having lost millions of pounds last year by staging back-to-back grands prix behind closed doors, it is desperate to avoid another major shortfall by being forced to cap attendance next month.

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