Fans will be asked to wear masks
Fans attending sporting events in England after July 19 will require a Covid passport and will be told to wear masks, Telegraph Sport can reveal.
The Government will this week issue guidance to sports ahead of a return to full capacity after Boris Johnson revealed venues with large crowds would be urged to adopt Covid certification – proof of full vaccination or evidence of a negative test – “as a matter of social responsibility”.
The use of Covid passports and masks – an exception could be made for the latter in outdoor settings – will not be mandatory at this juncture but it is unthinkable sports will ignore official guidance given their duty of care to those attending.
The Prime Minister’s announcement saw one senior figure in football denounce the “bloody appalling” inconsistency of the Government’s position on Covid certification, which it had previously considered before appearing to rule out.
But sport had called for the measure if it meant being allowed to return to full capacity and has long been planning to adopt it if required.
A Whitehall source told Telegraph Sport: “We are going to strongly encourage sports to use it.”
The source said that Covid certification could avoid a venue being ordered to reduce its capacity if new nationwide coronavirus restrictions were imposed in the autumn or winter.
“I think sports will be fairly strongly incentivised to do it.”
On masks, the source added: “Through guidance, we will be encouraging the use of masks. Certainly, an event organiser can put it as a condition of entry.”
It had yet to be determined on Tuesday exactly which events would be covered by the guidance, but the source said: “I think most Premier League and EFL clubs will be.”
Covid certification has already been used at pilot events for the return of crowds to sport, which have witnessed major changes to how those events are organised.
That includes staggered entry times, something that could be more difficult to manage at the country’s largest venues, particularly at midweek evening games.
A source at one ‘Big Six’ Premier League club admitted that would present “a challenge”, revealing fans could be warned they may need to alter long-established pre-match routines.
“One of the things clubs face is that supporters have their routines ingrained,” the source said. “You walk a certain way to the ground, you meet at a certain time beforehand, you have routines and rituals around going to the game. Most fans do.
“So having to stagger entry and tell different fans to arrive at different times, clubs are going to have to be very, very clear and up front to communicate that.”
Another issue with the pilot events has been that Covid certification is provided primarily via the NHS App, which those attending have struggled to access when the phone network gets overloaded in crowded areas.
In future, people will be advised to keep their apps open as they are getting close to a venue or ensure they have an offline copy of their Covid certificate.
There is also the potential problem of unvaccinated spectators self-administering a test and choosing to record a negative result even if they are positive – as there is currently no requirement to provide any proof of the outcome.
One source said: “Think of the moral dilemma: you’re about to leave for the cup final; what do you do if you’re positive?”
But the same source said this would become a minor issue given far more people will have Covid certification through being double-jabbed.