Sports happy to accept Covid-19 passports – if they enable capacity crowds to return ASAP

Sports would accept the introduction of Covid-19 passports if they enable the return of capacity crowds as quickly as possible, says a letter to MPs signed by a number of governing bodies.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 8:04 am
Empty seats at yesterday's LV= Insurance County Championship curtain-raiser between Sussex and Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford. Cricket is one of the sports happy to accept Covid passports in order to welcome capacity crowds back quickly. Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images.

But the Football Association, Premier League, Rugby Football Union and England and Wales Cricket Board, among others, also caution that current social distancing rules will be ‘insufficient to end sport’s Covid financial crisis’.

Test events are being launched over the coming weeks as part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, with the Carabao Cup final, the second FA Cup semi-final and the FA Cup final acting as Wembley pilots for the ‘Covid status certification’ scheme.

Vaccine and testing passports are opposed by a group of cross-party MPs but Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Keir Starmer are among several politicians to be told that they are seen as a ‘credible option to enable full venues from June 21 onwards’.

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‘The return of fans will give a huge boost to millions who enjoy a day out at a sporting event with their friends and families and be of great benefit to the economy,’ the joint letter says.

‘It is right that every possible action is considered to secure this outcome as soon as possible, but only for as long as an unrestricted return is considered unsafe to fans, matchday staff and the wider public.

‘This includes investigating how a Covid certification arrangement could reduce and then safely remove the requirement for social distancing.

‘There are many issues to be addressed including how the technology would work and its ease of use at major events, for both the attendees and the organisers.

‘All of our sports can see the benefit that a Covid certification process offers in getting more fans safely back to their sport as quickly as possible. We know that our stadia can only be fully filled with an assurance process.

‘This process must ensure that everyone can access stadia and must include arrangements that would verify a negative Covid test or an antibody test or vaccination certification.

‘The final approach must not be discriminatory, should protect privacy, and have clear exit criteria.

‘We also reiterate that certification should not be a requirement for any form of participation in grassroots sport around the country.’

Once trial events such as the World Snooker Championship and Three 10k runs in Hatfield Park are completed, fans will begin trickling back in limited numbers across all sports from May 17.

Silverstone and Wimbledon are also part of the warning to the Government that this initial tranche of returning spectators alone will do little to ease the financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

‘At this stage of the process all spectators will need to follow social distancing requirements and attendance will be capped at a maximum of 25 per cent of larger venue’s capacity. However this will still be insufficient to end sport’s Covid financial crisis,’ the joint letter says.

‘Looking ahead to June 21, we support the Government’s ambition to secure the full return of fans, without restrictions if possible.

‘Of necessity, this will depend upon the Government agreeing that it is safe to lessen or drop social distancing requirements.

‘All of our sports are committed to working closely with the Events Research Programme to explore all of the options that will allow us to swiftly return to full capacities.

‘It is important that we have certainty as soon as possible on the form this guidance will take so we can plan efficiently and effectively with many big sporting events scheduled for late June and onwards.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We welcome the constructive approach from major British sports as we explore how testing Covid certification and other steps can help get more fans back into stadiums and other large events safely.

‘We want as many fans as possible to be able to enjoy a great British summer of sport, safely.’