The UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) has added several new events, including The Open Championship golf competition and several rugby league matches.
As part of its third phase of pilot events for reopening England, some 32,000 fans will be allowed to attend the Open at Royal St George’s in July.
The Rugby Football League also announced that the double header of the Challenge Cup Final and AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final on July 17 will be one of a small number of events participating in the ERP’s latest pilot events.
While exact details have not been confirmed for the RFL games, Mark Foster, RFL’s chief commercial officer, said that indications are that it will likely be a 50-per-cent capacity limit, which is around 40-45,000.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, said: “Our phenomenal vaccine rollout and increasing uptake of the NHS App means the Challenge Cup Final and the 1895 Cup Final will now take place in front of tens of thousands of fans at Wembley Stadium, which is a very positive sign ahead of the Rugby League World Cup later this year.
“These highlights of the Rugby League calendar will be an important part of the Events Research Programme, helping to explore how we can safely return fans to sporting and cultural venues at ever greater numbers.”
The ERP is being used to provide scientific data and research into how small and large-scale events could be permitted in line with the roadmap, with the latest round of events to follow the announcement of the four-week extension to the COVID-19 roadmap.
The change to the roadmap came as a bitter blow to the sectors who were preparing to reopen fully on June 21.
Crowds at matches in England have been set at a maximum of 25 per cent or 10,000, whichever is smaller, since 17 May.
For the Open, which is scheduled to take place from July 15-18, existing ticketholders and hospitality guests who have already purchased tickets will be included in the pilot event, so long as COVID status certification is presented.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The Open Championship returns to Royal St George’s for the first time in a decade and what better way to welcome its return than with more than 30,000 fans each day watching the best golfers in the world battle it out for the famous Claret Jug.
“We have always said we will do everything possible to return fans to our iconic cultural and sporting events as soon, and as safely, as possible — and thanks to the phenomenal success of our vaccine rollout and uptake of the NHS App we’re able to take another step forward through our flagship Events Research Programme.”
The Goodwood Festival of Speed motorsport event has also confirmed it will now form part of the ERP as a pilot event, taking place as planned on July 8-11.
The capacities agreed with the ERP will mean that all 2021 Festival of Speed ticket, hospitality and grandstand pass holders will be able to attend as planned, including those with tickets rolled over from 2020.
Other events likely to take part in the third phase of the ERP include England cricket’s international matches against Sri Lanka at Emirates Riverside (on June 29), the Kia Oval (July 1), and Bristol (July 4), as well as the ODI against Pakistan at Edgbaston on July 13.
The venues could be up to 50-per-cent full for the fixtures. During the second phase of the ERP, England’s second Test of the series against New Zealand was able to host 70 per cent of capacity.