Clubs in talks with EFL over compulsory vaccine passports for spectators

·4-min read
Footballs placed on a pitch - CAMERASPORT
Footballs placed on a pitch - CAMERASPORT

Around 15 Championship and League One clubs are in talks with the EFL over the need to potentially introduce compulsory vaccine passports for spectators in the autumn.

The government are considering making Covid certification mandatory for large scale events from October.

Downing Street have already announced that, from the end of September, people in England going to nightclubs will have to be fully vaccinated and similar proposals could yet be introduced for events with over 20,000 attendees.

The EFL anticipate that around 20 per cent of their 72 clubs could be affected by such measures and are in discussions with the hierarchies at those sides to ensure they are not caught out in the event the government enforce such rules.

Some clubs such as Sunderland, Sheffield United and Derby County with big average attendances may have no choice but to ensure they have a robust system in place, most likely via an app that checks whether fans have been double jabbed.

But it is thought others forecasting average attendances marginally above the 20,000 mark may yet look into capping capacity at that cut off figure to avert the need to introduce Covid passports.

One source close to the discussions told Telegraph Sport: “The clubs have been incredibly responsible and really conscientious over the past 18 months because we don’t want outbreaks and we don’t want games cancelled again. We need to get through the season.

“The clubs stuck to the protocols, which are obviously easier to implement when stadiums are empty, but I think they will educate supporters and encourage them to be vaccinated and use it as a carrot rather than a stick. Everyone wants to keep the crowds.”

The EFL are understood to have met with the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove some time ago to discuss the issue of vaccination passports, which could be introduced as a way of trying to manage infection rates while maintaining capacities should numbers spike once large scale events resume. A curveball could come if the government was to insist on crowds with less than 20,000 attendees also requiring vaccine passports.

Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association, believes any such proposals would need to be managed carefully. “I think if they’re going to do this with big football crowds then they need to have the resources to do the checks,” he said. “I’m not convinced that all football clubs will be able to manage that in a way that doesn’t cause some chaos.”

Exclusive: EFL clubs fear 'pingdemic' will lead to steward shortages for season's opening weekend

Clubs across the English Football League are concerned that the so-called “pingdemic” could lead to a significant shortage of stewards as they prepare to welcome back crowds for this weekend’s big re-opening.

The Championship season kicks off on Friday night when Bournemouth host West Bromwich Albion and the League One and Two campaigns commence the next day.

EFL clubs will welcome fans through their doors en masse for the first time since March last year, when football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent matches had to be played behind closed doors.

But there are fears that clubs could be left facing potentially disruptive steward shortages amid the threat of people being pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app and told to stay at home.

One senior source told Telegraph Sport: “I think it will be mixed and hopefully clubs will be able to address it. We’ll know on Saturday. There doesn’t appear to be panic but it’s a concern.”

Last week, the app sent a record 689,313 alerts and many businesses have already complained that they were struggling to operate because so many staff were being asked to isolate.

The app has since been updated so that fewer people will be asked to self-isolate in a bid to end the disruption.

Under new programming, only those who have been in contact with an asymptomatic case in the past 48 hours will be pinged. Previously, the app traced contacts back five days for both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections.

From August 16, fully vaccinated people will no longer have to self-isolate if a contact tests positive for Covid so the worries around stewarding numbers may prove to be short-lived but the next week could present problems.

There are also 33 EFL Cup fixtures due to take place next Tuesday and Wednesday and another full programme of league fixtures the following weekend. Premier League clubs could face similar challenges with their season kicking off that weekend.

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