Coronavirus: Wembley Stadium earmarked as crowd tester this month
Nathalie Raffray & PA reporter
- Credit: PA
Wembley Stadium may be used a test centre for the safe return of crowds as part of the Covid rules easing.
Up to 4,000 people could be filing into Wembley Park as early as April 17.
A number of pilot events are taking place from mid-April including a semi-final FA match between Southampton & Leicester City.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the PA news agency: “I am desperate to get people back into stadiums and arenas."
The easing of restrictions is dependent on the continued success of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and further reductions in infection rates.
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Mr Dowden added: “They will look at all the different factors associated with hosting events like that, so the journey of people two and from the stadiums, the testing of people before and after to see where the spread risk is, behaviour and ventilation and so on.
“The aim is to get as many people back, and as safely as we can, from June 21.”
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One of the FA Cup semi-finals will serve as a test event for up to 4,000 spectators, made up of local residents and NHS workers.
It is understood on April 25 the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham could test an attendance of double that.
Mr Dowden is hopeful a large crowd of up to 20,000 fans will be able to attend the Euro 2020 final in July but capacity is still to be determined.
As yet there are no guarantee that stadiums and arenas will be able to operate at full capacity, with further restrictions still possible.
The roadmap out of lockdown in England allowed grassroots outdoor sport to resume on March 29.
The third step of the easing of restrictions on May 17 allows stadiums to open with a 25 per cent capacity limit, up to a maximum of 10,000 spectators.
The current plan is then for all restrictions on social contact to be lifted on June 21.
Wembley is hosting seven Euro 2020 matches, including both semi-finals on July 6 and 7 and the final on July 11.
Rugby league is also due to host one of its blue riband events at Wembley with the Challenge Cup final on July 17.
Ralph Rimmer, chief executive of the Rugby Football League, hopes the stadium will be at least half-full.
He said: “We would like to think it would be 50 per cent, up and around that. Clearly everything is governed by the R rate.
“I know how much enthusiasm there is to get crowds back. We’ve been speaking to the Secretary of State and he’s talked quite openly of the importance of getting people to those events.”