Football FANS will be allowed back into stadiums and venues from May – bringing a real prospect of a proper summer of sport..
If all goes to plan, from June 21, the Government aims “to remove all legal limits on social contact” to “enable large events above the limits of step three” to take place.
The news is a welcome boost for supporters who have been forced to become stay at home fans for most of the past 11 months since the initial sporting shutdown last March.
There was a brief window at the end of last year with crowds of up to 2,000 at half of the Premier League venues and other events.
But the third wave of the virus ended that experiment almost as soon as it was up and running and gates have been locked ever since.
Now, though, the prospect of the turnstiles clicking back into gear will bring smiles to the faces of football fans and sport’s money men alike.
While the May 17 date comes two days too late for the FA Cup Final, Wembley beaks do need to hold step test events prior to the Euros to ensure they are able to operate with any protocol requirements.
The FA has to hand over Wembley to Uefa after the EFL play-offs finish on May 31 but would be open to using the FA Cup Final as part of that testing process if the Government is willing to allow football fans, which seems likely.
However, that would see much smaller crowds of maybe only 2,000 or so initially.
If not, with Uefa regulations meaning England cannot play warm-up games at Wembley, it will become trickier to get allow more fans inside when the tournament begins in June.
But the May 17 date does open the prospect of fans returning for the final week of the Premier League campaign the following Sunday.
Only last week, Prem chief executive Richard Masters admitted that the game is not the same without fans, adding: “Hopefully we will see the return of supporters as soon as possible.
“We are working with Government to get fans back in the stadiums in real numbers and get back to the real Premier League.
“At the moment we want to finish the season as scheduled – and there might even be some supporters in the ground as well.”
Whether the clubs would vote for a policy that would hand only 10 of them a real boost for the final match of the season, when top four, relegation and prize money of millions might be at stake is another question.
The full opening relies on the agreement of the fourth of four “reviews” which include travel regulations and possible “Covid status certification” for venues.
That “will look at the safe return if major events” but the mood of the Government is that things are on the right track at last.