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Timeline on fan attendance at sport events

·6-min read

The Wimbledon women’s and men’s finals will be played in front of a capacity Centre Court crowd, while around 40,000 fans will be at Wembley for the Euro 2020 final despite the lifting of England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions being delayed.

Here, the PA news agency charts the steps forwards and backwards on fans being allowed at sports events since the pandemic struck the UK last year.

March 2020

The stands were packed for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival
The stands were packed for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The last major sports events without restrictions take place in the week beginning March 9, including Liverpool’s Champions League last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid at Anfield and racing’s Cheltenham Festival.

Elite sport is forced into suspension during the first national lockdown, and only emerges behind closed doors from the start of June.

July 17, 2020

The Government announces that spectators will return to trial events over the summer, with a view to a wider, socially distanced reopening of venues from October 1.

July 26, 2020

Cricket fans at the Surrey v Middlesex friendly last July
Cricket fans at the Surrey v Middlesex friendly last July (PA)

Spectators attend a sports event for the first time since March when the Surrey v Middlesex friendly match begins at The Oval.

July 31, 2020

Fans attend day one of the World Snooker Championship but Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the remainder of the event, along with the final day of Glorious Goodwood, must now take place behind closed doors due to a spike in cases.

August 13, 2020

The Government announces pilot events to test the safe return of spectators could resume from Saturday, August 15 – including the World Snooker final.

August 26, 2020

Fans sanitise their hands before the Brighton v Chelsea pre-season friendly on August 29, 2020
Fans sanitise their hands before the Brighton v Chelsea pre-season friendly on August 29, 2020 (PA)

A new list of pilot events covering football, rugby union, horse racing, cricket, basketball and speedway is announced to take place over the remainder of August and September.

September 9, 2020

Spectators attend the St Leger Festival at Doncaster, the first race meeting with crowds since March. However, the course announces the rest of the meeting will be behind closed doors. A rise in infections not seen since the first lockdown forces the Government to limit attendances at pilot events to 1,000 spectators, or to revert to no crowds at all in areas where infection levels are especially high.

September 22, 2020

Boris Johnson pressed pause on the return of spectators after an autumn rise in Covid-19 case numbers
Boris Johnson pressed pause on the return of spectators after an autumn rise in Covid-19 case numbers (PA)

The Prime Minister announces the planned return of spectators to sports venues on a socially distanced basis from October 1 will not go ahead due to a rise in coronavirus cases. He says the restrictions brought in would be in place for “perhaps six months”.

October 31, 2020

The country enters a second national lockdown, but elite sport is allowed to continue.

November 23, 2020

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The Prime Minister announces that venues in tiers one and two of the Government’s new regional system to tackle infections will be able to open on a limited capacity basis from December 2.

December 2, 2020

EFL matches at Wycombe, Luton, Charlton, Shrewsbury, Carlisle and Cambridge go ahead with spectators in attendance, the first to do so since a series of pilot events in September. Race meetings at Ludlow, Lingfield, Kempton and Haydock also welcome spectators in.

December 30, 2020

Liverpool fans attended the match against West Brom before the city was moved out of tier two
Liverpool fans attended the match against West Brom before the city was moved out of tier two (Stu Forster/PA)

By the end of the year only the Isles of Scilly remain in either tier one or two. The match between Liverpool and West Brom on December 27 was the last Premier League fixture to be played in front of a 2,000 crowd. The last EFL fixtures with crowds were played at Plymouth, Shrewsbury and Barrow two days later.

February 22, 2021
The Government announces its coronavirus recovery ‘road map’ with the country having been in a third lockdown since January 4. It sets out the intention for up to 10,000 spectators to return to venues from May 17, provided the data at the time supports the easing of restrictions. The Government says it will run an Events Research Programme (ERP) in the spring with a view to looking at measures which will allow crowds to return to venues in more significant numbers from June 21.

March 13, 2021

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The first ERP pilot events are confirmed – the FA Cup final in May and the World Snooker Championship starting in April.

April 17, 2021
The World Snooker Championship becomes the first sports event to welcome back spectators.

April 25, 2021

Two thousand Manchester City fans attended the Carabao Cup final on April 25
Two thousand Manchester City fans attended the Carabao Cup final on April 25 (PA)

The Carabao Cup final at Wembley – which was added to the ERP list after March 13 – is the first outdoor sports event with fans in attendance. Spectators did attend the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton on April 18, but these were residents and key workers who lived locally to Wembley.

May 2, 2021
The first day of the World Snooker Championship final is the first sports event to be played at full capacity since the start of the pandemic.

May 10, 2021

A capacity crowd attended the final two days of the World Snooker Championship
A capacity crowd attended the final two days of the World Snooker Championship (PA)

The Prime Minister confirms the Government is proceeding with the plan to take the third step of the recovery road map, meaning sporting venues across England will be able to welcome back up to 10,000 spectators from May 17.

June 14, 2021

Despite an announcement from Boris Johnson that the lifting of England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions will be delayed by up to four weeks, the Government confirms plans for up to 20 pilot events across sport and entertainment, with Wimbledon and football’s European Championship the big winners. Wembley will play host to the largest sporting crowd in the UK in more than 15 months, with roughly 40,000 fans in attendance for the final four Euro 2020 fixtures at the stadium – including the semis and final. Meanwhile, the Wimbledon women’s final on July 10 and men’s final on July 11 will be contested in front of a full Centre Court in SW19, with the tournament beginning with 50 per cent ground capacity.

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