England plans return of fans in time for EPL finale in May

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Plans to ease England’s lockdown restrictions will see up to 10,000 supporters being allowed back into Premier League stadiums for the final day of the season in May ahead of Wembley hosting European Championship games.

May 17 is the earliest day announced by the government for the implementation of stage three of the gradual easing of England’s coronavirus lockdown that could see sports venues re-opened to spectators. The Premier League season ends on May 23.

Stadiums with more than 40,000 seats, including the home of Premier League leader Manchester City, will be allowed up to 10,000 fans spaced out. Smaller major venues will be permitted a quarter capacity.

The government said it would also run pilots to research how sporting events can take place in the future without any social distancing, using other mitigations such as testing.

Up to 2,000 fans were allowed back into some stadiums across England in December but all venues were shut again as coronavirus restrictions were tightened later in the month due to the spread of new variants of COVID-19.

Other leading European countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are yet to announce plans for the return of spectators to sports stadiums.

“The turnstiles of our sports stadia will once again rotate, subject in all cases to capacity limits depending on the size of the venue,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “And we will pilot larger events using enhanced testing, with the ambition of further easing of restrictions in the next step.”

The final stage of the government plan, in which all legal limits on social conduct are removed after 15 months of closure, is set for June 21. That is a week before the scheduled start of Wimbledon, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Wimbledon, which was cancelled in 2020 for the first time since the Second World War, is scheduled for 28 June to 11 July with Formula 1’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone on 18 July.

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