Fans must produce Covid passes to attend major sporting events

·6-min read
American Express Community Stadium.
American Express Community Stadium.

Those attending football matches and other major sporting events will be forced to prove they have been vaccinated against coronavirus or test negative for the disease after Covid passes became mandatory in England.

But the Government on Wednesday night stopped short of banning those refusing to be jabbed from such events after the Prime Minister announced the emergence of the omicron variant of Covid-19 had forced him to move to Plan B of his ‘Covid-19 response: autumn and winter plan’.

Boris Johnson did so as the Premier League’s own coronavirus crisis intensified, with eight Tottenham Hotspur players testing positive and seven of Leicester City’s first team either doing the same or complaining of feeling unwell.

The Government’s Plan B had originally included stopping any adult not double-jabbed – barring those unable to be for medical reasons – attending events with crowds of 10,000 or more, dropping to 500 or more for those indoors.

That was downgraded to mandatory Covid certification via the NHS Covid Pass, exempting those who submitted a negative result when taking a lateral flow test after recovering from the virus from any fan ban.

The change of stance represented a major victory for football, which had lobbied against full vaccine passports and which had already been carrying out Covid certification checks at Premier League level in anticipation of them becoming mandatory, which will take effect from a week on Wednesday.

Full details of exactly how they would operate in sport had yet to be made public on Wednesday night but Telegraph Sport has been told the Government was unlikely to insist every match-going fan’s NHS Covid Pass was checked.

That was because doing so could dramatically increase the time taken for supporters to enter grounds, compounding the risk of the virus spreading and of crowd disorder.

Ministers could therefore follow their Scottish counterparts by agreeing that random spot checks would be sufficient to police those attending events.

An EFL spokesperson said: “In light of the Government’s activation of Plan B Covid-19 mitigation measures, the EFL will continue to support those Clubs that will be required to admit fans with COVID certification from Wednesday 15 December onwards.

“Despite challenging circumstances throughout the pandemic, EFL Clubs have readily adapted to welcome fans safely and we know Clubs have been preparing for this additional layer to their matchday operations to ensure supporters can continue to watch their team play with confidence over the winter period.”

The 10,000 threshold would also force clubs with attendances that only sometimes exceed that figure to choose whether to bring in spot checks or cap capacity at 9,999.

Telegraph Sport has been told the cost of introducing checks would be negligible compared to lost gate receipts.

The threatened introduction of vaccine passports had previously been branded “disgraceful” amid accusations it would make scant difference to the spread of the disease.

One chief executive of a Championship club told Telegraph Sport in September: “Football had no financial support. Yet, we’ve been put upon to deliver a vaccination programme for the Government again. It’s disgraceful. And I’m 100 per cent for vaccinations. But, if you’re going to do this, you should be saying double-vaccinated or lateral flow.”

Covid passes Q&A

What has been announced?

The mandatory introduction of so-called Covid passes for events with crowds of 10,000 or more, dropping to 500 or more for those indoors. It will mean those attending football matches and other major sporting events will be forced to prove they have been vaccinated against coronavirus or test negative for the disease. The Government decided the emergence of the omicron variant of Covid-19 warranted a move to Plan B of its ‘Covid-19 response: autumn and winter plan’. The wearing of masks could also become mandatory again in all but the seating areas of large outdoor venues.

What about those who refuse to be vaccinated?

Plan B had originally included banning any adult not double-jabbed – barring those unable to be for medical reasons – attending such events. But the Prime Minister stopped short of doing so, saying it had been agreed producing a negative test would be sufficient. That represented a major victory for football, which had lobbied against full vaccine passports and which had already piloted NHS Covid Pass checks in anticipation of them becoming mandatory.

Nothing really changes then?

Many Premier League fans will long have become used to the prospect of having to prove their Covid status. This has been carried out via spot-checks and it remained to be seen on Wednesday night whether that would continue when they become mandatory.

When will this start and finish?

In terms of the Covid pass, from Wednesday December 15, meaning there would be no requirement to enforce the new rules this weekend. Indoor public venues such as theatres will require masks from Friday. There was no timetable given for when the restrictions would be lifted but it would be a surprise to see any change until the full impact of the omicron variant on coronavirus hospitalisations becomes clear – and potentially until the end of the winter.

Could all those attending an event be checked?

Full details of how mandatory Covid passes would be operate in sport will emerge in the coming days. For smaller, indoor venues, a case could be made for checking all those attending. But Telegraph Sport has been told the Government was unlikely to insist every match-going football fan’s pass was checked. That was because doing so could dramatically increase the time taken for supporters to enter grounds, compounding the risk of the virus spreading and of crowd disorder.

Does the 10,000 cap apply to a stadium’s capacity or actual attendance?

Attendance. A club with a home ground with more than 10,000 seats but an attendance lower than that would not have to comply with the new rules. However, they would be forced to impose a spectator cap on every match and Telegraph Sport has been told the cost of introducing NHS Covid Pass checks would be negligible compared to lost gate receipts from doing so. Most clubs with a capacity exceeding 10,000 are expected to introduce the checks.

Could vaccine passports still come in?

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson spoke of the need for Britain to have a “national conversation” about mandatory vaccination, hinting that it could follow other European countries in imposing the jab.

But the threatened introduction of vaccine passports had previously been branded “disgraceful” by some in football amid accusations it would make scant difference to the spread of Covid-19.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting