The League Cup final, one FA Cup semifinal and the FA Cup final will all have fans in attendance as the UK government has selected Wembley Stadium to host test events for how large-scale events can start to take place again in a post-COVID world.
[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]
These three games will give us a very clear idea as to how close we are to a large number of fans returning to games on a regular basis, as the UK’s Government’s Events Research Programme will run the events and collect data on how social distancing, crowd behaviors and a host of other factors play out.
With restrictions easing across England in the last week as the widely-applauded Coronavirus vaccine rollout has put the UK in a much better position after a strict three-month lockdown, the focus has now switched to getting sporting and leisure events back open this summer.
Which pilot events will have fans?
The government and English Football Association have released statements and the following three soccer events at Wembley will be used as test events by the UK government:
- April 18: FA Cup semifinal, Leicester City – Southampton – 4,000 fans present (people from local area only to attend )
- April 25: League Cup final, Manchester City – Tottenham – 8,000 fans present (people from local area, NHS workers and Spurs and Man City fans able to attend)
- May 15: FA Cup final – Plan is to have 21,000 fans present
From May 17 there is further easing of COVID-19 regulations in England, and the Premier League is planning to play games in stadiums with up to 10,000 fans present.
Nothing has been confirmed yet, but if the UK government continues to unlock on time then those crowds will be possible at all PL stadiums and will be key to how fans may return for the 2021-22 season.
When will full stadiums return in England and the Premier League?
As of right now the UK government plan on ending restrictions on crowds and social distancing on June 21.
That means that the start of the 2021-22 Premier League season should have close to full stadiums, and the European Championships this summer (plenty of games will be hosted at Wembley) will build up to having close to full stadiums for the latter stages of the tournament.
Of course, all of this depends on how well these test events go and if the COVID-19 infection numbers, death rates and the number of different variants keep falling in the UK as they have been for many weeks.
As for the English FA, they believe this is the first big step on the way back to full stadiums:
“We’re delighted to be hosting three test events at Wembley and are confident we can offer a safe environment,” said FA chief executive, Mark Bullingham. “This is an important first step towards getting fans back, with the end goal of full stadia – hopefully by the end of the men’s EUROs. We would like to thank all authorities for their support throughout this process.”
The culture secretary in the UK, Oliver Dowden, added: “Our sports stars and great performers need us to find ways to get bums back on seats safely. This science-led pilot programme will be the springboard in getting the buzz back of live performance. We’ve supported the sports and arts with unprecedented sums, but it’s now time to make that Great British Summer of live events a reality.”
We have revealed the initial pilot events which will help pave the way for larger audiences at sport, theatre and gigs this summer.
The government’s science-led Events Research Programme will work with organisers to undertake studies to get fans and audiences back safely. pic.twitter.com/CFtZKTwNlN
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) April 3, 2021