KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON —- Fans are back. England’s cautious attempt to emerge from the second national lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic saw 8,000 supporters present at Wembley to witness Manchester City’s1-0 victory over Tottenham in the League Cup Final.
A small number of local workers and residents had already been allowed to attend the previous weekend’s FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton. But this was the first experiment with club supporters.
The match featured in the UK Government’s Events Research Programme which is being used to provide scientific data into how small and large-scale events could be permitted to reopen safely.
Some 2,000 fans from each club were allowed to attend with the other 4,000 tickets having been distributed among health and public service workers in the local borough of Brent. Fans had obtained their tickets through ballots organised by City and Spurs among season-ticket holders.
Admission was dependent on each ticket-holder possessing written or electronic proof of a negative Covid test in the 27 hours before kickoff.
If all goes well then the FA hopes to welcome 21,000 for the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Leicester at Wembley on May 15. After that – again, all being well – Wembley will welcome even more fans for its eight matches in the Euro 2020 finals.
The Football Association has told UEFA that England’s three group matches at Wembley will have 22,500 fans with the figure being doubled to 45,000 for the two semi-finals and final. Some 3,600 tickets will be reserved for Scotland fans for the ‘derby’ on June 18.
A review is under way concerning Wembley’s second round tie and quarter-final. Wembley acquired the second-round tie last Friday after the withdrawal of Dublin from the group of host cities.
The assessments represent 25pc and 50pc of Wembley’s capacity.
The latest match addition means that England could potentially play six out of seven matches at Wembley, should they reach the final.
To do that they would need to win group D ahead of Scotland, Croatia and the Czech Republic, then win a round-of-16 match in London and a quarter-final in Rome, before returning to Wembley for the semi-finals and final.
Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, said: “Our hope and expectation is that we get up to a higher number after the group games. We have got until June 2 to tell UEFA what our numbers can be for the round of 16, semi-finals and final.
“Our hope is that we will be 50 per cent full for those games, but clearly that’s a decision for the government and health authorities to make.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “We have made huge strides over the past few months with our vaccine programme and everyone in the country has made huge sacrifices to get us to this stage in our recovery from Covid-19. We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible.”
Manchester City’s victory over Aston Villa in last year’s League Cup final on March 1, 2020, was the last time Wembley had a capacity crowd.