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Emirates Old Trafford chief backs Wembley’s COVID certification plan

Wembley’s deployment of COVID certification for this summer’s UEFA Euro 2020 matches is a boost for all who want to return to live events, according to Daniel Gidney, chief executive of Lancashire Cricket.

On Tuesday, UEFA documents revealed that fans attending Wembley for its Euro 2020 group games will be required to show proof of full vaccination (with the second jab received at least 14 days beforehand) via the NHS app or a negative lateral flow test within the previous two days.

Gidney, who has been a member of a working group of senior county cricket executives that has liaised with the England Cricket Board (ECB) on the return of fans to sport, last month led calls for a return to full crowds at cricket grounds from June with the usage of COVID certification.

In April the ECB joined other leading sports bodies, such as the Football Association and Premier League, in an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson backing COVID certification as a “credible option” to ensure stadiums and arenas are able to work to full capacity.

Spreaking to TheTicketingBusiness following the Wembley announcement, Gidney reiterated his hope that COVID certification can accelerate the return of fans to venues without creating undue risk.

“I was delighted to see the reports around COVID certification being used for the European Championships at Wembley,” Gidney said. “There has been a lot of noise around the term “vaccine passports” and potential discrimination if you haven’t been vaccinated. However, this noise hasn’t really been accurate.

“COVID certification that allows the opening up of larger crowds for events via evidencing either vaccination or a negative lateral flow test gives everybody, whatever their age and whether they have been vaccinated or not, a great opportunity. For everyone who has been desperate to attend a big outdoor festival, concert, or sports event that they’ve been wanting to do since the pandemic began, this potentially accelerates that.”

Gidney said it is key that social distancing measures are eased, as originally outlined in the Government’s roadmap unveiled back in February. Emirates Old Trafford has planned for the implementation of Step 4 from June 21, with a busy summer of international and domestic cricket as well as a Courteeners gig for 50,000 fans in September.

He said: “I understand there has to be a balance struck between science, politics and the economy, but COVID certification enables you to strike that balance. By including lateral flow tests (our staff at Emirates Old Trafford take them twice weekly) which are really easy to do and you know the result in 30 minutes proves that COVID certification is not discriminatory. That kind of handles the politics.

“In terms of science, clearly getting vaccinated is the best thing you can do. According to the Times, of the 12,383 cases of the Indian variant that have been identified, 126 have led to hospital admissions. 83 of the patients had not been vaccinated at all, 28 had received one dose and three had received both doses. The data does appear currently to bear out the government’s aims to break the link between infection and hospitalisations. If you can’t get vaccinated, then regular testing ensures that even asymptomatic cases are picked up to prevent transmission.

“In terms of the economy, the relaxing of social distancing legislation is key, particularly for the hospitality and events industry. This enables the return of crowds and certification can help support keeping all those fans and customers safe.”