Government 'hopeful' fans can return to sports stadiums in time for major summer events

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he is 'hopeful and optimistic' that large-scale crowds will be able to return to sporting events this summer. Credit: PA

Large-scale crowds are on course to return to sporting events this summer, with up to 10,000 fans potentially allowed in stadiums in May.

Speaking on the day grassroots sports made a comeback in England, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he is “hopeful and optimistic” spectators can follow suit in the next few months.

From May 17, stadiums could be permitted to host as many as 10,000 fans – or 25% of capacity – while from June 21 the current plan is for restrictions to be lifted completely.

Pilot events will explore how spectators can return safely in large numbers to stadiums.

The rescheduled Euro 2020, which is due to be played across the continent including at Wembley, Hampden and the Aviva Stadium, straddles June 21.

Mr Dowden told Sky Sports News: “For the later matches in the tournament, we’ll be looking at substantially more than that (10,000), but that is subject to finding a safe way of doing that.

“I’m very hopeful and optimistic that we will get many, many more people in for the later stage games.”

What are the major sporting events that could benefit this summer?

England's roadmap out of lockdown has taken a phased, gradual approach with at least five weeks between each stage of reopening.

The government has emphasised its progress will be based on "data, not dates" and much will depend on the success of the vaccine rollout, the spread of any new Covid variants, and other conditions.

But, if the roadmap continues according to plan, here is a look at what spectators could be enjoy this year:

The European Championships could welcome fans back into stadiums. Credit: PA
  • Euro 2020

The delayed football championship begins on June 11 – before the final step on the government’s ‘road map’ for the easing of coronavirus restrictions – but the hope will be that England’s final group game against the Czech Republic on June 22 could be played in front of a significant crowd at the 90,000-capacity Wembley.

The London venue is due to host four further matches in the knockout stage, including both semi-finals and the final.

  • Wimbledon

The UK’s grand slam tennis tournament was cancelled last year but crowds are set to return to SW19 this summer – albeit in reduced numbers.

Tournament organisers the All England Lawn Tennis Club say there will not be the traditional queue – replaced instead by online sales – and that the “most likely outcome” is a reduced number of spectators within the grounds.

  • British Grand Prix

The Formula One championship race takes place on July 18 this year.

The managing director of the Silverstone circuit, Stuart Pringle, is hopeful of allowing a large number of spectators in, pointing out that the venue has 70,000 grandstand seats spread out over three-and-a-half miles.

  • Premier League 2021-22

Fans look set to be able to attend the concluding rounds of the current season but the English top flight’s chief executive, Richard Masters, is even more optimistic for the 2021-22 campaign which kicks off on August 14.

He said earlier this month: “From the beginning of next season onwards, our goal is to have full stadia and the government’s road map offers us that opportunity.

"There’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge before that can happen but that’s our ultimate goal.”

England fans could be back in Trent Bridge in numbers. Credit: PA
  • England v India cricket

The showpiece series of the summer gets under way on August 4 when the first of five Tests starts at Trent Bridge.

An England and Wales Cricket Board statement from February said: “Our leading venues strongly believe they have the technology and know-how to return capacity crowds and we look forward to working in close partnership with the government to identify ways in which this can be achieved in a safe and controlled manner this season.”

  • London marathon

Potentially the largest event of them all, with 50,000 runners set to take part in the capital on October 3. A significantly larger number – possibly as many as half a million – could line the city’s streets to cheer on the mix of elite athletes and amateur runners.

  • Rugby League World Cup

The finals in England begin on October 23 and end on November 27. Tickets first go on general sale from April 6.

Asked about capacities for the tournament, Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer said on Monday: “We would like to see 50 per cent and upwards. There is a long way to travel but I definitely think that is doable.”

So, what conditions must be met?

The PM said his road map will contain four tests for easing restrictions at each stage. These are the four tests:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully

  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated

  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS

  • The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of concern.

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