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22 Mar 2021

FA Cup final among test events planned ahead of full reopening of major venues
BY Tom Walker

The FA Cup final on 15 May could see a large crowd return to Wembley (picture features fans ahead of the 2014 final)

The FA Cup final on 15 May could see a large crowd return to Wembley (picture features fans ahead of the 2014 final)
photo: Shutterstock/Steve Dornan

The FA Cup final in May could be played in front of 20,000 football fans, as part of a programme of test events designed to pave the way for the return of crowds at major sports venues later this year.

Taking place on 15 May, the flagship event is one of "around a dozen" of sports and cultural events earmarked as pilots by The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Under the government's four-part roadmap out of lockdown, up to 10,000 people could be allowed into stadiums for sports events after 17 May – providing the test events leading up to it, such as the FA Cup, are successful.

The return of crowds to major venues will also be dependent on official data relating to coronavirus infection rates and hospital admissions, under the government's "data, not dates" approach.

It is believed that the FA Cup final will feature a non-socially distanced crowd, the first such crowd at an English football game since the Leicester City versus Aston Villa Premier League game on 9 March 2020.

The trial events will take place under strict medical supervision, however, and will also be used to test a number of “non-pharmaceutical interventions” – such as new venue layouts and ventilation, as well as the use of face coverings – designed to lower transmission risk.

The proposed test events and the measures will also need to be approved by local authorities responsible for the areas in which the venues are located.

In the case of the FA Cup and Wembley Stadium, this would be Brent Council.

The Football Association and English Football League are now working with the government to finalise the details.

Other events rumoured to be a part of the government's testing programme are the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, held between 17 April and 3 May.

Under the government's roadmap, the third stage of reopenings on 17 May will see indoor sports venues allowed to host a maximum attendance of 1,000 people – or half their capacity (whichever is lower).

Outdoor venues will be able to operate with a maximum attendance of 4,000 – or half their total capacity (whichever is lower).

The largest outdoor seated venues, where spectators can spread out – such as major football and rugby stadiums – have been given special dispensation.

As a result, major venues will be able to host crowds of 10,000 people, or 25 per cent of their full capacity (whichever is lower).

The fourth and final stage, on 21 June, will see all legal limits on social contact being removed – and could mean full-capacity stadiums for the rest of the summer’s sporting events.

This could be great news for the likes of the Wimbledon Championship – scheduled for 28 June to 11 July – which was cancelled in 2020 for the first time since WWII.

It will also come as a relief to the Rugby League World Cup 2021, which will be hosted across English cities in October and November.

To read the government's latest guidance on the return to sport – and for the return of spectators –

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