The FA Cup final in May could go ahead with up to 20,000 fans under proposals being considered by the UK government, while Premier League chief executive Richard Masters is hopeful that up to 10,000 supporters will be able to attend fixtures on the final two match days of the league season.
The UK government announced last month that up to 10,000 fans or 25% of seated capacity, whichever is lower, could be allowed at English sports stadiums from May 17 – if the country is able to move to Step 3 of the COVID-19 reopening plan.
The FA Cup final is due to take place at London’s 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium on May 15, two days before Step 3 would come into effect. It has previously been reported that the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals have been lined up as test events for the return of supporters, with the latter having already been pushed back until April to maximise fan attendance.
It has now emerged that the FA Cup final is one of a number of test events being proposed by the government. Although the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport has not yet decided on attendance figures, BBC Sport reports that a potential crowd of 20,000 is being explored, with any proposal requiring approval from Brent Council.
Another test event being considered is the World Snooker Championship, which takes place at The Crucible in Sheffield from April 17 to May 3. The DCMS has indicated that crowds would not need to be socially distanced as optimism over increased fan attendance continues to grow with the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations in the country.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing.
“We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen. We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.”
Fans will be required to return a negative COVID-19 test prior to attending any of the test events. The events would be held ahead of the potential lifting of all legal limits on social contact on June 21, which could see much larger crowds attend matches at Wembley during the UEFA European Championships.
The final round of the Premier League is due to take place on May 23, meaning that crowds of up to 10,000 will be permitted if England moves into Step 3. The Premier League is also set to move one round of fixtures to May 18-20 to ensure that each of the 20 clubs will be given the chance to welcome fans back and to maintain competitive balance.
Masters said: “Hopefully the final two fixtures of our season will have up to 10,000 supporters in them all. We’ve got to go past those first initial steps in the government’s roadmap to get there, so hopefully that will be a fantastic finale to end the season.”
Fans were allowed back at some Premier League grounds for a brief period during December as COVID-19 restrictions eased, but matches have been played behind closed doors since January after England headed back into lockdown.
Masters added: “Towards the end of this season we’ll get towards £2bn (€2.34bn/$2.78bn) lost since the start of the pandemic in match-day and broadcast revenue. Clubs have continued to invest in competitive match-day squads and the Premier League has continued to make good all of its contributions throughout the pyramid and wider football.
“But the ramifications are that ultimately if there’s less money coming into football, then there’ll be less money going out in the short term.”