England prepares to unlock its stadia as lockdown easing conditions released

February 23 – Up to 10,000 fans could be back in English stadiums by the end of May as part of the British government’s efforts to move out of the third and hopefully final lockdown.

Supporters have been prevented from attending matches across England since December and under new proposals, the final weekend of Premier League, set to be played on May 23, could technically be played in front of a limited number of fans – followed potentially by Wembley’s hosting of seven European Championship fixtures.

Before that, English football authorities hope two showpiece games at Wembley – the League Cup final on April 25 and the FA Cup final on May 15 – could be test events for the return of spectators with, again, limited numbers of fans.

The government’s roadmap out of lockdown has earmarked May 17 as the earliest day for the implementation of widescale reopening of sports venues to spectators. The Premier League ends on May 23.

Stadiums with more than 40,000 seats will be allowed up to 10,000 fans provided they are socially distanced. Smaller major venues will be permitted a quarter capacity.

The news is a boost to England’s hopes of staging games at the rescheduled Euro 2020 across the Continent in June and July, including the semi-finals and final.

“The turnstiles of our sports stadia will once again rotate, subject in all cases to capacity limits depending on the size of the venue,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

“And we will pilot larger events using enhanced testing, with the ambition of further easing of restrictions in the next step.”

Britain has suffered Europe’s worst coronavirus death count, with more than 120,000 fatalities, yet has acted before other leading European footballing nations who are yet to announce plans for the return of spectators to sports stadiums.

The reason for this is that Britain, conversely, also has Europe’s fastest inoculation campaign with more than 17.5 million people, a third of the country’s adult population, already given the first of two doses of vaccine.

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