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UK roadmap could allow thousands of fans to return to events from May

Up to 10,000 fans could return to outdoor events from May 17 under plans published by the UK Government, with all legal limits removed on mixing by mid-June.

A roadmap out of COVID-19 restrictions states that outdoor seated events in England can welcome up to 10,000 people or 25-per-cent capacity, whichever is lower, from the start of Step 3, which can happen no sooner than May 17.

Other outdoor events can host up to 4,000 people or 50-per-cent capacity, while indoor events such as theatre shows can welcome 1,000 people or 50 per cent.

Social distancing rules would apply at all events and reopening would depend on the virus’ spread continuing to wane.

The change would come just days ahead of the end of the 2020-21 Premier League season on May 23, but after the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 15. The return of fans would come ahead of Euro 2020, with the first Wembley games to be held in early June.

The final Step 4 out of lockdown in England is planned for June 21, when all legal limits on mixing will be removed and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. It is possible that England’s final Euro 2020 group game, against Czech Republic on June 22, could be played in front of a capacity 90,000 fans at Wembley.

Patrons can also return to indoor entertainment and attractions in England from May 17. Outdoor attractions such as zoos and drive-in cinemas will be able to open in Step 2, which will not come before April 12. Step 1, which begins with the reopening of schools on March 8, will allow outdoor sports and activities from March 29.

A Government statement added: “Step 3 will take place no earlier than 17 May, and at least five weeks after Step 2, following a further review of the data and the four tests. Again, the Government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned.

“In addition, pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing.”

Scotland’s concert venues, theatres and cinemas are set to remain closed until at least May under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to bring the country out of lockdown. A detailed timetable for easing restrictions is not expected to be set out until the middle of March.

Among those to respond to the UK Government plans for England, Jon Dutton, chief executive of Rugby League World Cup 2021, said: “We are greatly encouraged by the roadmap for the return of spectators to sports stadia, which was detailed by the Prime Minister in Parliament today. We have remained positive and optimistic that fans would be able to attend the tournament, which will be held in October and November 2021 in England.

“We recognise that there are still challenges ahead, but we very much hope that this tournament, predominantly being staged in many of the hardest hit areas across the North of England, will play a part in the nation’s pandemic recovery plan and will be the biggest and best ever Rugby League World Cup.”

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) welcomed the roadmap outlined by the Government, but called for more financial support.

Michael Kill, chief executive of NTIA, said: “We are pleased to hear within the Prime Minister’s statement the inclusion of a timeline for night time economy businesses, in particular some of the hardest hit businesses, many of which have been closed since March 2020, like nightclubs, bars and casinos.

“Despite this, our evidence suggests that 85% of those who work in the night time economy are considering leaving the sector. The sector urgently needs additional clarity on reopening and critical financial support from the Chancellor if we are to avoid economic and social damage that will last a generation.”

Dale Ballentine, chief executive at Motorsport Tickets, said: “We need a strong reopening strategy, which will allow people to plan their travel for all matter of reasons, including for live sporting events which are safe, secure, and still scheduled to go ahead. For Brits wanting clarity on how large scale sporting events might be possible this summer, we can look to Formula 1 as one of the first big tests.

“Formula 1 has already confirmed many of their races in 2021 will allow fans in the stands and has put obligatory measures into place to protect visitors, such as social distancing in grandstands, no general access for non-ticket holders, and no mixing outside each grand stand. For races earlier in the season, such as the Spain Grand Prix from 7-9 May, ticket providers are also limiting ticket sales per person to avoid large groups and facilitate social distancing. If these events go well and do not lead to a rise in R rate, other sports may also consider opening their doors to fans once more.”

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