Fans set to return to English venues from May 17

Up to 10,000 fans could be allowed in English sports stadiums from mid-May under new guidelines laid out by the UK government today (Monday).

The government’s roadmap details a phased reopening of sectors, with Step 3 – which would come at least five weeks after Step 2 and no earlier than May 17 – including a special provision to allow up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower, at large outdoor venues.

Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is lower, will also be permitted, as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50% or 4,000 people, whichever is lower.

The government has also detailed plans for pilot events to run as part of its Events Research Programme to examine how events with a capacity of 10,000 can take place without the need for social distancing, using other mitigations such as COVID-19 testing. These pilot events will begin in April.

Step 4 of the roadmap would come into effect no earlier than June 21 and at least five weeks after Step 3, and would potentially allow larger events to take place, with no legal limits on social contact.

The announcement on the potential return of fans from May 17 could mean that the final day of the Premier League season on May 23 goes ahead with spectators. The English Football League (EFL) season ends on the weekend of May 8-9, but play-off matches held later in the month could be played in front of fans.

The news also boosts chances of Wembley hosting a significant number of fans during this summer’s rescheduled European Championships, which are due to run from June 11 to July 11.

Other events such as the Wimbledon tennis grand slam, golf’s Open Championship, Formula 1’s British Grand Prix and cricket internationals could also go ahead with significant crowds if Step 4 does come into effect by June 21.

Fans were allowed back at some stadiums in England earlier in the season before a rise in COVID-19 cases forced events back behind closed doors.