Covid passports are set to be tested at sporting events as part of the government’s plans to boost attendance in time for Euro 2020 and sport’s big summer.
sports mail understands that officials are working on a “Covid certification” system, which will be used in the second phase of test events due to begin in late May or early June.
It will record whether a person has had a vaccine, an antibody test result to prove immunity, or a Covid test result to show they don’t have the virus.
Sporting bodies, including the Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board, said earlier this month it was ‘credible’ to reach capacity crowds by the end of June, if Covid passports were tested and introduced at sporting events.
Covid passports open the prospect of packed houses for sporting events after June 21
The inclusion of passports in the second phase of test events raises the exciting prospect of sold-out houses later this summer.
England take part in football at the Euros, face Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India in cricket, Silverstone will host a Formula 1 Grand Prix and without forgetting Wimbledon, the Open Golf and the final of the Betfred Rugby League Challenge Cup.
The Covid vaccination pilot program will begin after work on an updated NHS Covid app, which will show a person’s coronavirus status.
And passports should guarantee full stadiums for the start of the next Premier League, EFL and rugby seasons, provided the virus remains firmly under control.
Major sporting bodies including football, rugby codes, motorsport, cricket and tennis wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition party leaders on April 8 urging them to urgently agree to test Covid passports in order to bring crowds back to capacity this summer.
Their letter was headlined: ‘Sport supports review of Covid certification (testing and vaccination) as a credible option to allow full venues from June 21’.
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And he said: “Looking ahead to June 21, we support the government’s ambition to ensure the full return of fans, without restrictions where possible.”
“Necessarily, it will depend on the government agreeing that it is safe to reduce or drop social distancing requirements.”
He added: “We know that our stadiums can only be fully filled with an insurance process.
“This process must ensure that everyone can access the stadiums and must include provisions that would verify a negative Covid test or an antibody test or vaccination certification.”
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LIMITS FROM MAY 17
As part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, increasing numbers of spectators are allowed at events, provided infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid remain low and vaccination rates high.
From May 17, the covered rooms will be able to accommodate up to a maximum of 1,000 spectators, or half their capacity if this figure is lower.
For outdoor events, there will be a maximum of 4,000 fans allowed, or half a venue’s capacity (whichever is lower).
However, in larger stadiums, with a capacity of over 16,000, such as Wembley and Premier League football grounds, a maximum of 10,000 supporters will be allowed, or a quarter of the capacity (whichever is lower). ).
From June 21, it is hoped that all social distancing requirements can be lifted.
Prime Minister Johnson is desperate to see stadiums return to full capacity and despite opposition to the scheme, Covid passports are increasingly seen by the government as the only way to achieve this in the near future.
During a Number 10 press briefing on Tuesday, Johnson said Covid passports could be used in “hard to open” areas such as theaters, sports stadiums and nightclubs,
“What we’re looking at – what I think any responsible government would look at – is how we use people’s Covid status to open these things that are very difficult, and which have proven to be very difficult to open in the last year” , did he declare.
On Monday, the Department of Health posted job advertisements on a possible Covid certification scheme, with applicants being asked to be ready to start by May 4.
The Prime Minister has set out a roadmap to bring spectators back to the events. Up to 10,000 fans, or 25% of stadium capacity, whichever is lower, will be allowed from May 17.
Johnson said he wanted full houses from June 21, subject to the outcome of test events and as long as the spread of Covid is under control, vaccinations are progressing well, there are a limited number of serious illnesses and new variants do not spread.
The first phase of the events research programme, which began last weekend with the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton at Wembley and the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, is based on the social distancing and spectator testing for coronavirus.
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This will continue until May 15, when Wembley will host the FA Cup final in front of 21,000 fans.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has said football will have lost £2billion since the start of the pandemic in match revenue and broadcast revenue.
In an interview last month, Masters said football’s goal was to return to full stadiums by the start of next season.
The Premier League signed a letter from all major UK sports, which called on politicians to support a major review of Covid passports as a way to achieve this.
“There’s a lot of water to go under the bridge until that can happen, but that’s our goal,” Masters said in March. “A return to full and vibrant stadiums, a return to the normal Premier League.
“We need to move from stage one to stage four of the roadmap and look at the national situation and work with the government to create the conditions for this to happen. We believe this is an achievable goal.
“The vaccination program is the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the thing that changes everything, from being controlled by the virus to controlling it, and getting back to normal.
“If the vaccination program works the way the government wants, it will lead to the return of ticketed stadiums, theatres, cinemas and events in general.”
However, Premier League chief executive Bill Bush has warned that without Covid passports there will be limited and socially distanced crowds, no away fans and no food at games.
The lack of Covid passports for this event came as a surprise and with opposition parties and civil liberties groups raising concerns, it was thought the Prime Minister may have shown the red card to the scheme.
However, it now appears that the technology to support the test was not in place.
It is a sign of the government’s sense of urgency that the next second round of test events should use ‘Covid certification’ in paper form, if the NHS app is still in development.
All eyes will be on England in June and July with seven matches scheduled for Euro 2020 and there is the prospect of more if Ireland and Germany cannot stage their games due to Covid.
The Football Association has told organisers, UEFA, that the stadium will be able to accommodate 22,500 fans – 25% of its capacity – with the possibility of increasing to 45,000 spectators – half full – for the semi-finals and the final, which take place in July. 11.
The country’s major sporting bodies are desperate to see fans return to generate much-needed revenue after more than a year with almost no spectators.
In their letter to politicians, they argue that the passport should include testing for the virus as well as confirmation of immunity and commitment to a time-limited approach.
The letter addressed some of the politicians’ concerns and was intended to draw attention to the potential benefits of a viable program, if it can be achieved.
Labor leader Sir Keir has cast doubt on the use of Covid passports, describing the government’s plans as a “complete mess”, which his party is unable to support “in their current form”.
Liberal Democrat Ed Davey called passports “Covid ID cards” and described them as “illiberal” and “impractical”.
SNP Ian Blackford said ‘based on the information available there is no proposal before us that SNP MPs could support’.
And some 40 Tory MPs have made it clear they are against national vaccine passports, warning that introducing checks into everyday life would create a ‘two-tier’ nation.
But despite the opposition, the Prime Minister, who has previously expressed his desire for a full house at the Euro 2020 final, is pushing with a pilot who could still deliver crowds at capacity this summer.
Summer of sport in England
Key events after June 21 – the first date when all restrictions can be lifted:
June 11-July 11: Football – Euro 2020 in various countries, including seven matches at Wembley
June 28-July 11: Tennis – Wimbledon
June 29, July 1 & 4: Cricket – England – Sri Lanka ODIs
July 8, 10 & 13: Cricket – England – Pakistan ODIs
13: Athletics – Diamond League: Anniversary Games at London Stadium
July 15-18: Golf – The Open at Royal St George’s
July 16, 18 & 20: Cricket – England – Pakistan T20s
July 17: Rugby League – Challenge Cup Final at Wembley
July 18: Formula 1 – British Grand Prix at Silverstone
August 4-September 14: Cricket – England v India, five Test rounds
September 27-October 1: Cricket – Bob Willis Trophy Final at Lord’s
October 3: Athletics – London Marathon
October 9: Rugby League – Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford