Johnson confirms unlocking of English stadia from May 17

May 11 – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that up to 10,000 fans will be permitted at football matches from May 17 in England, bringing to an end a season, played mostly behind closed doors, on a high note.

With England reporting no deaths linked to the coronavirus on Monday because of the impact of lockdowns and vaccination against the disease, Johnson has seized the momentum to project a further easing of restrictions in the middle of May, including a major crowd-pleaser, allowing fans to watch matches live again.

Supporters would be allowed to attend the final two rounds of Premier League matches this season, with stadiums set to open to home fans only at reduced capacity. The final two rounds of matches will be played on May 18-19 and May 23. “We’ll unlock the turnstiles of our sports stadia subject to capacity limits,” said Johnson.

During the pandemic Johnson has often used football’s soft power and cultural leverage to score points with the electorate. He was an opponent of the European Super League breakaway plans and his government offered to step in and host the all-English Champions League final, but that showpiece match seems set to be shifted from Istanbul to Portugal now.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “It’ll be brilliant to see fans back. They’ve been hugely missed and the Premier League hasn’t been the same without them. Their presence will ensure a fantastic finale to the end of our season.”

Last December, up to 2,000 fans were allowed at a number of Premier League matches, but that experiment was short-lived as England went into lockdown again.

Some pilot events have taken place with fan attendance. The Carabao Cup final at Wembley between Manchester City and Tottenham had 2,000 fans in attendance. This weekend, 21,000 fans will be expected to attend the FA Cup final, one of the landmark moments of the English domestic season, between Chelsea and Leicester City.

The UK government hopes to increase the number of spectators allowed at venues from June 21, when restrictions in England are expected to be further lifted. This summer, Wembley will play host to Euro 2020, staging England’s group matches as well as both the semi-finals and final of the tournament.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1632406664labto1632406664ofdlr1632406664owedi1632406664sni@o1632406664fni1632406664