Brighton and Hove Albion is set to become the first Premier League team to play in front of fans since March, while Uefa has announced that this year’s Super Cup will take place in front of a limited number of fans.
UK government sources have confirmed that plans are underway to launch a series of test events allowing a minimal number of fans into football games, with a pre-season fixture at Brighton’s Amex stadium as well as select Women’s Super League figures and the non-league FA Trophy and Vase among the potential events.
The Amex would be operating at less than 10 per cent of its usual capacity, with just 2,500 tickets set to be made available for the 30,000-seater venue. Only home fans would be allowed entry, with the identity of the visiting team for the friendly fixture yet to be confirmed. The game would be likely to take place on the bank holiday weekend – August 29-31 – or sometime during the first week of September.
If successful, the pilot scheme would pave the way for further test events with double the number of spectators later in the month, scaling up to a mooted 10,000 supporters, from both teams, to be allowed into Wembley Stadium for the FA Trophy and Vase finals.
Those games will in turn serve as test events for potentially allowing the public access to England’s Nations League games at Wembley in October.
The Super Cup, meanwhile, will take place this year in Budapest between Sevilla and Bayern Munich on September 24. Up to 30 per cent of the Puskas Arena will be opened. The use of the Super Cup as a test event was proposed by Uefa last week, and its Executive Committee has green-lit the plans today.
Hungary has shown relatively low levels of Covid infections and deaths. The top flight of its national league was was one of the first in Europe to allow spectators back into matches.
The UK proposal hinges on Covid infection rates remaining low in the country. Last month, plans to allow fans into several major sporting events were cancelled with just 24 hours’ notice after infections increased across the country, though some events, such as the World Snooker Championship final, have since been held with fans in attendance. The first outdoor event with a crowd in the UK will take place this Friday, August 28, in Scotland, with the Edinburgh vs Glasgow Warriors Pro14 rugby match. Just 700 spectators will be allowed into the 67,000-capacity Murrayfield Stadium.
Rates in the UK are already rising, with reports suggesting that more local lockdowns may be on the cards to curb outbreaks, but the government and sporting rights-holders remain committed to reopening venues at some capacity by October 1. The government’s initial cap on attendance will be 30 per cent of capacity, though the Premier League is believed to be challenging this and will propose a bespoke plan with differing capacities for each club taking into account stadium design, transport links and local coronavirus infection rates, among other factors.