More than 60,000 football fans will be allowed to attend the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 at Wembley if they have a negative Covid-19 test or prove they are double vaccinated.
The Government announced on Tuesday that attendance capacity for the tournament’s closing matches at the north-west London stadium has been increased to 75%, which could see some of the largest crowds in the UK since the start of the pandemic.
All ticket holders will be required to have a negative coronavirus test or provide proof of two doses of a vaccine 14 days before a game.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As we continue to make progress on our road map out of lockdown, keeping the public safe remains our top priority.
“We have worked extremely closely with Uefa and the FA to ensure rigorous and tight public health measures are in place whilst allowing more fans to see the action live.
“The finals promise to be an unforgettable moment in our national recovery from the pandemic.”
The UK Government and Uefa have been locked in talks over the final stages of the tournament due to issues around coronavirus travel restrictions.
Uefa is thought to be pushing for 2,500 VIPs to attend the final on July 11 without being subjected to the quarantine requirements that apply to other international travellers.
A UK source said the talks had been “positive” and that “final details are being worked through” but ministers have indicated that some restrictions would remain in place.
Reports had suggested the final could be moved to Budapest if a deal cannot be reached and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has also said that Rome could provide an alternative venue.
But in a statement, Uefa said: “Uefa, the English FA and the English authorities are working closely together successfully to stage the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020 in Wembley and there are no plans to change the venue for those games.”
Following the attendance announcement, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the matches “will show that when it comes to great sporting events, London simply cannot be beaten”.
He added: “It is really important that Londoners continue to stick to the rules throughout the tournament and get tested for Covid regularly and take both doses of the vaccine as soon as they are offered.”
Mark Bullingham, FA chief executive, said: “We hope that this programme lays the foundation for the safe return of fans in stadiums all across the country next season.”
The matches will form part of the Government’s events research programme (ERP) which has seen test events held at sporting, music and other venues to assess the impact of crowds on Covid-19 infection rates.
The announcement comes just a day after Covid-19 restrictions in England were hoped to be further lifted, before the Prime Minister pushed this back by up to four weeks amid concern over the Delta variant.
It meant ongoing curbs on other events in England, such as weddings where the size of a guest list now depends on how many people a venue can safely accommodate.
Rules stipulate that dancing is not permitted, apart from the couple’s first dance, while eating and drinking must be done while seated.
Some couples due to marry this week shared their frustration at continued limitations while large-scale sporting events can welcome back crowds.
Bride-to-be Chelsey Rowe, 23, from Letchworth, said: “It baffles me how you can have thousands at say a football match or to watch horse racing, but we can’t have our nearest and dearest celebrating a huge milestone in our relationship.”
Pilot events under the ERP include the Royal Ascot horse racing meeting being permitted to host crowds of up to 12,000 spectators per day, while the first week capacity of the Wimbledon tennis championships will be capped at half of normal levels – 21,000 people.
The Rugby Football League is also preparing for a crowd of up to 45,000 for the Betfred Challenge Cup final at Wembley next month.
Other test events have included the FA Cup final at Wembley, the Brit Awards and the World Snooker Championship.
Tory MP Mark Harper, who chairs the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, said on Tuesday that he feared data on large test events has not been published because “it would have demonstrated that we could have safely opened on June 21″.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Harper said he suspected the numbers were “fantastically positive” after events did not trigger Covid-19 outbreaks and that he is “a little confused” as to why the numbers have not been released.
Culture minister Nigel Huddleston dismissed “conspiracy theories” around the issue, adding that if there were “major concerns” the Government would have made sure the information was “in the public arena”.
He added: “Some of the initial data points were already announced by the Secretary of State back in May but the report needs to be comprehensive, it needs to be reviewed by a large number of stakeholders in Government, we will be releasing it very soon indeed.”
Mr Huddleston earlier said “post-event data” had “not shown any evidence of the events causing outbreaks”.
Attendees at the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final who are registered with a GP in England will be able to show they have received their Covid-19 jabs on the NHS app or via equivalent printed out proof if, for example, they are from Scotland and Wales.
Evidence of a negative NHS lateral flow test result can also be show via email, text message or the NHS app.
The Government said that the next phase of the ERP will include more sport and cultural pilots, with it planning for up to 20 indoor and outdoor events that will allow audience numbers to return near to full capacity.