FA Cup final could see 20,000 fans at Wembley as pilot for large-scale return of spectators

Sky Sports News has been told discussions centre around an attendance of up to 20,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, which would be considerably beyond the 10,000 limit for larger outdoor seated venues set to come into force in step three of the road map on May 17

FA CUP
Image: A final decision on the size of the attendance for the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 15 is yet to be made

The FA Cup final and World Snooker Championship will be among a group of sporting and cultural events used as pilots to test the large-scale return of spectators to venues.

The Government announced plans for a pilot programme to begin in April when it set out its road map in February for the easing of coronavirus restrictions, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has now provided more detail, saying there will be "around a dozen" events serving as tests in total.

The FA Cup final on May 15 is the most high-profile of these events and Sky Sports News has been told that discussions centre around an attendance of up to 20,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, which would be considerably beyond the 10,000 limit for larger outdoor seated venues set to come into force in step three of the road map on May 17.

Fans are set to return to sporting venues from May 17 0:42
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says he is hopeful football stadiums will be full at the start of next season

The pilots form part of the Events Research Programme (ERP) and will inform Government decisions on step four of the road map, which will begin no earlier than June 21 when it is hoped spectators will be able to get back safely and in large numbers. The idea is to test a range of sporting and cultural venues, from Wembley on one hand to a 200-capacity comedy club on the other.

With such a range of venues to test within the ERP and the limited number of events proposed by DCMS, it leaves open the question of whether the EFL or the Premier League will be involved in the pilots.

The EFL are also keen to participate, with the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham - due to be played at Wembley on April 25 - considered its ideal event to test.

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

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"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.

"These are important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave and that I'm fully focused on delivering."

1:06
EFL chairman Rick Parry is hopeful matches will be able to be played in front of full stadiums next season

The events will test a range of 'non-pharmaceutical' methods to allow the safe return of fans without social distancing - including venue layout, face coverings and ventilation.

Researchers will monitor spectators' movements and interactions while the event is ongoing, DCMS said.

Rapid testing will also be key to the events. Testing before and after the event will be mandatory, but it is not confirmed yet how close to the event a negative test would need to be provided to allow entry.

David Ross, the founder of Carphone Warehouse and the chair of the Sports Technology and Innovation Group (STIG) which oversaw pilot events last year, will be one of the co-advisers on the ERP.

A report from the ERP will go to Government for consideration before the end of May, DCMS said.

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