Fans are set to return to sporting events from Monday, May 17, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined his road map for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Supporters have been prevented from attending sporting venues across England since the scrapping of the tier system in December.
However, the Prime Minister has now revealed plans in the House of Commons to ease restrictions step-by-step across the whole country simultaneously instead of on a regional basis.
From May 17, indoor events will be capped at 50 per cent capacity or 1,000, whichever is lower, and for outdoor events this will be 50 per cent capacity or 4,000, whichever is lower.
Larger outdoor seated venues such as football stadiums will be allowed up to 10,000 people or be a quarter full, whichever is lower.
The proposals rule out the possibility of fans attending any further regular-season matches in the EFL, but it would mean the final weekend of the Premier League season, set to be played on Sunday, May 23, could potentially be played in front of a limited number of fans.
With Manchester City top of the league, 10 points clear of second-placed Manchester United, supporters could see Pep Guardiola’s side lift the Premier League trophy against Everton at the Etihad.
Although the FA Cup final is set to be played on Saturday, May 15 – two days before the initial plans to allow fans to return, it could be used as a test event.
Which clubs will be at Wembley?
Tottenham face Manchester City in the 2021 Carabao Cup final on April 25
Eight teams are left in the FA Cup. The quarter-finals will see Leicester vs Manchester United, Chelsea vs Sheffield United, Bournemouth vs Southampton and Everton vs Manchester City.
Sky Sports News reported last week the FA and EFL were working with the Government to get fans inside Wembley for the two showpiece finals of the FA and Carabao Cups.
It is hoped to have one-third of Wembley full of spectators by the time the finals are played, in late April and mid-May, providing it is safe to do so.
The EFL has already moved the Carabao Cup final from February 28 to April 25 to give it the best chance of having supporters inside Wembley.
Both finals have been identified as key milestones for the wider game, and – crucially – ahead of this summer’s Euros.
Also in Step 2 – We’ll also publish a review of international travel to set out outlook for foreign holidays ✈️
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) February 22, 2021
An EFL spokesperson said: “Following a successful fan pilot programme in the Autumn, the EFL and member clubs have shown test events for fans can be safely delivered with the appropriate measures in place.
“With the Carabao Cup Final taking place on 25 April and the culmination of the regular EFL season on 8/9 May, we look forward to engaging with the Government about its pilot programme and will be working to welcome as many fans as possible to the Sky Bet Play-Off Finals which will conclude the 2020-21 season on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend.”
With Wembley set to host seven matches at this summer’s delayed Euro 2020, including all three of England’s group games, a last-16 clash, both semi-finals and the final, Monday’s announcement is seen as a positive step for fans to attend.
The Football Association welcomed the news, saying in a brief statement: “The FA is absolutely delighted that fans will be allowed back soon.
“The game is simply not the same without them and we look forward to the return of full stadia as soon as it is safe and possible.”
The proposals also leave open the possibility of spectators returning over the summer for Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, the British Grand Prix and cricket internationals and county matches, depending on whether the conditions for easing restrictions have been met by May 17.
Final round of Premier League fixtures (dates tbc)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirms fans may be allowed to return to stadiums ahead of the final games of the Premier League season… 👇
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 22, 2021
Arsenal vs Brighton
Aston Villa vs Chelsea
Fulham vs Newcastle United
Leeds United vs West Bromwich Albion
Leicester City vs Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool vs Crystal Palace
Manchester City vs Everton
Sheffield United vs Burnley
West Ham United vs Southampton
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Manchester United
Major UK sporting events this summer
25 April: Football – League Cup final at Wembley
8 May: Football – Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park
15 May: Football – FA Cup final at Wembley
22 May: Football – Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley
11 June-11 July: Football – Euro 2020 in various countries (final at Wembley)
28 June-11 July: Tennis – Wimbledon
29 June, 1 & 4 July: Cricket – England v Sri Lanka ODIs
8, 10 & 13 July: Cricket – England v Pakistan ODIs
13 July: Athletics – Diamond League: Anniversary Games at London Stadium
15-18 July: Golf – The Open at Royal St George’s
16, 18 & 20 July: Cricket – England v Pakistan T20s
17 July: Rugby League – Challenge Cup final at Wembley
18 July: Formula 1 – British Grand Prix at Silverstone
July-August: Cricket – The Hundred
Non-elite sport in England to resume in March
The Prime minister has also revealed non-elite sport – including grassroots football – can resume in England from March 29.
Johnson also confirmed schools in England will reopen to all pupils on March 8, with children’s after-school sports and activities also allowed to resume.
On the same date, outdoor recreation with one other person will also be permitted, meaning people will be allowed to sit together in a park with a coffee, drink or picnic.
However, adults will have to wait a further three weeks to restart organised sports, with grassroots football set to resume along with the reopening of tennis courts, golf courses and other outdoor sport facilities.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) called for indoor facilities to reopen as soon as possible to help community projects in financial difficult due to the pandemic.
A spokesperson said: “It is also important that indoor facilities can reopen as soon as it is safe for them to do so. Many of the country’s network of indoor tennis facilities have suffered real financial challenges so it is vital that we protect these community assets to avoid them closing permanently, and we are keen to work with Government on this.”
The Rugby Football Union also released a statement to say they would be in dialogue with authorities to determine how the game of rugby will return.
“We will work with DCMS on the Covid protocols for the community game, including the format of rugby that will be permitted in return to play,” the statement read. “We also look forward to working with Government and other sports on the safe return of fans to stadiums.”
From April 12 at the earliest, use of indoor leisure facilities such as gyms for individuals or household groups will be possible.
All children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity including sport, regardless of circumstance.