Sports covid test events: Wimbledon, F1 British Grand Prix and more

Up to 20 sporting and cultural events are set to be part of the Government’s extended programme looking at the safe return of spectators.

Jamie Gardner
Tuesday 15 June 2021 10:34
Boris Johnson delays easing of lockdown restrictions until 19 July

Some of English sport’s blue riband summer events are to be exempt from strict capacity limits despite the Government’s decision to delay the final easing of coronavirus restrictions until July 19.

Here we take a closer look.

What has happened?

The Government has announced the last four Euro 2020 matches to be hosted at Wembley will be played in front of crowds of at least 40,000 and that Centre Court will be at full capacity for the Wimbledon women’s and men’s singles finals next month, with at least 50 per cent capacity permitted for the earlier stages of the tournament.

But the delay on easing restrictions means capacity limits are still in place aren’t they?

The World Snooker Championship was the first sports event to welcome spectators under the ERP in April

They are, but they are not applicable to any event selected to be part of the Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), which since April has been looking at ways to get spectators safely into venues in financially viable numbers. Wimbledon and the Euros knockout stages are the latest to be added to the extended ERP, but the Government said on Monday it hopes to add up to 20 sporting and cultural events in total.

What other sports events might feature then?

Formula One’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Open Championship golf tournament at Royal St George’s and rugby league’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley are all understood to be under consideration to be added to the ERP in the coming days.

How can capacities be increased at these test events?

The NHS app will be used to determine ticket-holders' Covid status in the selected events

As with the Euro 2020 group games, the pilots will trial Covid status certification, whereby a ticket-holder must provide proof of full vaccination or a recent negative test to gain entry. Trials of the NHS App will also be run to assess whether it can be used to display a user’s natural immunity status.

The review of Covid status certification and the role it may play in our lives is being led by the Cabinet Office and is ongoing, but the results from the ERP will be part of the evidence base.

Why are these trials happening?

We want to gather further evidence on how we can open up all big events safely, and for good.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

The ultimate goal is to use the findings to influence wider policy on attendance at sporting and cultural events, as part of the overall easing of restrictions which has now been put back due to a rise in cases in recent weeks.

What about sports events that are not part of the ERP?

They must stick to the limits set out at step three of the Covid recovery road map, which came into force on May 17 and rely solely on social distancing as mitigation rather than Covid certification or anything else, which is why the limits are so strict.

For outdoor venues with a seated capacity of 16,000 or above, the limit is 10,000 or 25 per cent of capacity, whichever is lowest.

For outdoor venues with less seating than that, the limit is 4,000 or 50 per cent of capacity, whichever is lowest. For indoor venues, the limit is 1,000 or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is lowest.

That will place further pressure on matchday revenue for many sports clubs and governing bodies.

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