The finals of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup football competitions are reportedly being considered as test events for the return of fans in England.
According to The Times, the two matches at London’s Wembley Stadium are being lined up ahead of the potential wider roll-out of fans at sporting events during the summer.
The report claims that the UK government is considering allowing spectators back at events such as the UEFA European Championships, the Wimbledon tennis tournament, Formula 1’s British Grand Prix and golf’s Open Championship.
The final of this season’s Carabao Cup has already been pushed back until April, two months later than initially planned, in the hope that more fans will be able to attend. The match had initially been due to take place at Wembley on February 28 but will now be held on April 25.
When announcing the new date, the English Football League (EFL) said its objective was to stage the final with “as many supporters in attendance” as possible, although the exact number of fans that will be permitted remains unclear with guidelines subject to change.
This year’s FA Cup final is due to be held at Wembley on May 15. With the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out continuing apace in the UK, there is growing hope that events can go ahead with socially distanced fans in the coming months.
The finals of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup have been pinpointed as test events for Wembley, which is due to stage a number of matches during this summer’s rescheduled UEFA European Championships. The Championship, League One and League Two play-off finals will also be held at Wembley and could be used as additional test events.
A limited number of fans were allowed at football matches earlier in the season before a rise in COVID-19 cases forced games back behind closed doors. Spectators were also permitted in other sports, including rugby union, cricket and horse racing.
Wembley will host seven matches at Euro 2020 this summer, including all of England’s three group-stage games, a last-16 fixture, both semi-finals and the final. The English Football Association (FA) is reportedly hoping to open Wembley at around 30-35% capacity for the games, which would see between 27,000 and 31,500 fans able to attend.
If plans for the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals are given the green light, the attendance would be much lower at around 10,000. Plans for the return of fans are set to be considered by the Sports Technology and Innovation Group, which was set up last year to explore high-tech solutions that can allow more spectators to return to stadiums.