English venues await Covid ‘Plan B’ guidelines

England’s major venues are set to discover next week exactly what responsibilities they will bear in implementing new ‘Plan B’ Covid restrictions announced by the Government.

The NHS Covid Pass will also be required for visitors to nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people from next Wednesday (Dec 15). Face masks will be required in public settings including theatres and cinemas from tomorrow (Friday).

The changes for large outdoor venues come ahead of the busiest period of the professional football season, with six rounds of Premier League games scheduled over a two-week period from the middle of next week through to the new year. Liverpool FC has already delayed ticket sales for next Thursday’s game against Newcastle United pending additional Premier League and government advice.

A spokesperson for one Premier League venue said full guidance from the authorities is not expected until next week.

Further information on how venues should interpret the rules and what their responsibilities entail will come down from the Government and Department of Health and then into advisory guidance and licensing requirements for local authorities. Parties such as the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), and sports regulatory bodies and rights holders will be informed when decisions are made.

Whilst there are some clubs already checking 100% of fans’ status on entry – for example, Chelsea was checking both Covid Pass status and test results via mobile before entry to last week’s game at Stamford Bridge – it is anticipated by many operators that the Government will most likely require a minimum of 25% of attendance to be checked at random, prior to entry.

Many clubs informed fans at the start of the season that there would be random checking of NHS Covid Passes, with Tottenham and Brighton among those who have notified fans via their entry requirements for the season. Brighton is also asking all fans to wear masks when moving around the Amex Stadium.

One stadium director said: “It’s a nightmare. There’s no clarity. We can host maskless Christmas parties without checks but still don’t know what to do at the doors on match days.”

Meanwhile, SOLT & UK Theatre have welcomed the introduction of the ‘Plan B’ measures, with their indoor venues not requiring the display of COVID certification from patrons.

“We understand the government’s decision to introduce Plan B and are heartened to see amendments have been made to make it easier for our theatres to operate,” the group said in a statement.

“Theatres remain fully open and will continue to offer much-needed respite from the current challenges, in a safe and ordered environment. We are grateful to all our audiences for their ongoing support.

“Our industry-wide See it Safely protocols give audiences confidence that theatres are operating in accordance with the latest official guidelines – as part of these, we have always strongly recommended the wearing of face coverings throughout our buildings, and the government’s move to make them mandatory will help our hardworking Front of House staff keep our venues safe.”

“Although the current NHS Covid Pass recommendations do not apply to theatres, it is good to see that the government has included lateral flow test results as part of the pass alongside proof of vaccination – something our industry had been advocating for.

“Finally, we welcome the news that isolation requirements are to be replaced by daily testing for contacts of people infected by Omicron – this will avoid the disastrous ‘pingdemic’ of the summer and help keep our shows open and our audiences entertained.”

Image: Mike Pennington/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size