Football has made an ardent plea to the government to develop a reliable covid passport that will allow large crowds to attend Premier League, EFL and National League games all season long.
The executive director of the top flight, Bill Bush, appeared before MPs Monday, making it clear that social distance – or games played behind closed doors – is a disaster for the national game.
Spectators have been allowed to attend the final two rounds of Premier League games as the rules have been relaxed somewhat under step three of the government’s roadmap to end the lockdown.
A socially distant audience of up to 10,000 spectators was allowed to return to the Premier League games last week
Bush said that while clubs were allowed to get up to 10,000 supporters, or a quarter of their stadium capacity, they barely broke even and that the ‘safety net’ of a covid certification program is needed to ensure large crowds in the coming months.
Premier League director Bill Bush said the parliament administration should prepare for covid passports
Football fears that even if the rules for sporting events are relaxed in the summer, allowing for greater attendance, a flare-up of the virus in the fall could result in new distance measures, or even no fans at all and after more than a year with almost none fans, that would be disastrous.
“Social detachment is not enough for us,” Bush told MPs. “It’s not great from a fan point of view, but economically it continues the torture.
“For many clubs, no opening at all would be better economically.”
The next key date in the government’s roadmap is June 21, the earliest date for the country to move to step four of the process, when all legal limits to social distance are lifted.
The approval of that step depends on an assessment of the level of covid infection in the country, the severity of the disease, the progress of the vaccination program and the emergence of variants of concern.
It is not clear whether the government will approve the lifting of social distancing on June 21, or whether capacity crowds will be penalized this summer at football matches and major sporting events, including Euro 2020, a full program of international cricket, the British Formula 1 Grand Prix on Silverstone and Wimbledon.
During trial events, fans were tested for covid before and after attending matches
Large capacity events are seen as potentially higher risk and may be subject to stricter rules. As a result, covid passports may still be required to allow large crowds at summer events, or to maintain high numbers if the virus makes a comeback later in the year.
Bush said it was important to do work now to ensure Covid certification was ready as and when needed.
‘We prefer a covid certification scheme that covers very much both vaccination and testing because it will likely require relapse.
‘We fall back on a certified population rather than social distance and all the destruction of opportunities and destruction of income that flow from [that]. ‘
Sport is desperate for a way to get back to the hustle and bustle safely this summer and beyond
Covid certification, popularly known as covid passports, would involve a vaccination record or a recent test for the virus, confirming that a person is covid-free at the time.
“To know that tested, operational covid certification is available at very short notice would be a great reassurance,” Bush told the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.
“Knowing that there is a setback, knowing that we can keep going all season means we can plan, invest, recruit and train staff and we know we can keep people working for that period.”
The government has yet to disclose its covid certification plans, which is currently under review within the Cabinet Office.
Bush said clubs welcomed fans to reconnect with supporters instead of making money
Since the end of April, the government has held pilot events to monitor the spread of covid in the crowd and the effectiveness of mitigation measures such as masks, ventilation and testing.
The report has yet to be published, but what we’ve heard so far is that at the current level of prevalence, sporting events – the more outdoor events at least, and I think it applies to the indoor events as well – there is no significantly increased transmission. risk of turnout that has taken place, ”Bush said.
But he said that testing attendees was “a real burden” and “a pain in the neck.”
He suggested that a ‘vaccine passport’ would eliminate the need for testing and reduce the burden on sites.
A government spokesman said: ‘COVID status certification could play an important role, both nationally and internationally, as a temporary measure.
It could potentially play a role in safely opening higher risk settings and would take into account a recent negative test, vaccination or natural immunity.
‘We are considering a range of evidence around COVID status certification, this review is ongoing and no final decisions have been made yet.