Fan behaviour key to larger-scale sporting pilot events, says task force leader

Larger-scale pilot events are under “active discussion” but hinge on responsible spectator behaviour at upcoming events, according to the leader of a key working group.

Sports venues in tiers one and two of the new regionalised system were able to welcome spectators from Wednesday, with crowds attending EFL football matches and horseracing meetings on the opening day.

The guidelines ultimately allow for up to 2,000 people to attend events in tier two, climbing to 4,000 in tier one, though currently only a tiny fraction of the country is in that category.

The Government’s guidance allows exceptions for attendances over 4,000 for “any Government-endorsed test events”.

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The Sports Technology Innovation Group (STIG) is working on how technology can help get greater numbers into stadiums, and its chair, Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, says those larger test events are being worked on.

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However, he says fan behaviour will underpin the ability to move towards those greater numbers.

“There is now a hope and an ambition that large-scale pilots will be the next stage of where we go, and it is fair to say that is an active discussion between ourselves and DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport),” he said.

“They have got to be really well thought through. I have no doubt that the most important thing in taking this forward will be proving that the 2,000 and 4,000 levels is something we can build upon.

“Responsible behaviour really underpins that route back.”

Fans attending games must remain socially distant at all times and must wear face marks as they enter the stadium and go to their seats.

They will also be told not to touch the ball if it comes near them, or to approach players before or after the game.

On singing and shouting, Government guidance states: “Given the higher risk of transmission associated with singing and shouting, event organisers should remind spectators of this and strongly therefore encourage the use of face coverings in all outdoor spectator settings, including seats/standing points.”

An exemption to current legislation will allow clubs to sell alcohol without a substantial meal, with fans able to drink in the stadium concourses.

Arsenal will be the first Premier League side to welcome back fans when they host Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday night.

The club sold out their 2,000 tickets for the match within 20 minutes, having offered them to season-ticket holders on a first-come-first-served basis.

Liverpool and Everton have also announced plans for fans to return to their forthcoming home games against Wolves (Sunday, December 6) and Chelsea (Saturday, December 12) respectively.

Liverpool City Council’s Ground Safety Advisory Group has recommended the limited return with official approval of amended safety certificate due on Thursday.

However, in support of the Liverpool City Region mass-testing programme, all fans who are successful in the ballot will need to provide confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test result on the day of the game – or the day prior – to gain entry to the stadium.

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