FA Cup final and World Snooker Championship on list of pilot events to test return of fans

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The FA Cup final – potentially in front of 20,000 fans – and the World Snooker Championship are among the proposed pilot events to test the return of big crowds to venues this year.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) says it will stage “around a dozen” sporting and cultural events this spring.

The FA Cup final takes place at Wembley on 15 May.

The DCMS said the number of spectators at the pilots is yet to be decided.

But BBC Sport understands the possibility of having 20,000 fans at the FA Cup final is being explored by DCMS and the Football Association. The proposals would need to be agreed with Brent Council.

Under the four-part plan to lift the coronavirus lockdown, announced in February, the government said “up to 10,000 people” could be allowed in stadiums for sporting events if the pilots are successful, but not before 17 May.

However, the FA Cup final could still see a crowd of that size or larger attend, with the DCMS adding that “a number of pilots will include spectators and fans not socially distanced” while others will have social-distancing measures in place.

This year’s World Snooker Championship is set to take place from 17 April to 3 May at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing,” said Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen.

“We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.”

The pilots are part of the Events Research Programme (ERP) and will inform the government’s decisions on step four of roadmap out of lockdown, which will begin no earlier than 21 June, when it hopes to lift all legal limits on social contact.

The events will provide data on how large-scale crowds could be able to return to stadiums safely after this point.

Attendees will have to return a negative test before the event and will also be tested afterwards.

The non-socially distanced events will also test a range of “non-pharmaceutical mitigating interventions” such as the “layout of the venue, face coverings and ventilation”, while the ERP will also look at factors including travel to and from events.

The Premier League plans to have fans in grounds at the final two rounds of matches this season, by moving a round of fixtures to 18-20 May before the scheduled final round of games on 23 May.

The English Football League has said it is “engaging” with the government over the potential for a small number of fans to attend the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on 25 April.

BBC

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