MX23RW : Monday, May 17 12:54:28| >> :60:2485:2485:

Supporter groups criticise lack of consultation for Wembley pilot events

The Carabao Cup final, the second FA Cup semi-final and the FA Cup final are part of plans to ease the return of mass gatherings.

The Carabao Cup final, the second FA Cup semi-final and the FA Cup final will serve as Wembley pilot events for the government's 'Covid status certification' scheme.

The plan is to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown restrictions ease in England, with officials preparing a series of trial events over the coming months as they look to find a way for fans to return to sporting venues.

The FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton at the national stadium on April 18 will see football fans return for the first time since December, with 4,000 fans able to attend.

Manchester City face Tottenham in the Carabao Cup final seven days later with 8,000 fans watching and the month-long scheme will conclude with the FA Cup final on May 15, when 21,000 fans will be attending.

The Football Supporters Association has welcomed the scheme but has criticised the authorities for failing to consult with fans, particularly over the Carabao Cup final.

The FSA said: "Fans across the country will welcome the partial return of supporters to stadiums, and we all hope the test events go well.

"However, our affiliated groups at Manchester City and Spurs represent fans who will make up that crowd – and neither they nor the FSA feel 'consulted'.

"We have been informed what is happening but have had no input into the plans at this stage.

"Fans should be involved in the planning around these big Wembley games, we are the crowd after all, and we can make a positive contribution."

A general view of Wembley during England's game with Belgium in October
Fans will return to Wembley for this season's domestic finals and the second FA Cup semi-final (Michael Regan/PA)

The World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield – running from April 17 to May 3 – is the first sporting event to be included in the trial and will have 1,000 spectators per day, while there will also be three mass participation runs at Hatfield House on April 24 and 25, with 3,000 runners and a further 3,000 spectators.

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham hopes the test events can lead to there being full stadiums at this summer's European Championship.

He said: "We are delighted to be hosting three test events at Wembley and are confident we can offer a safe environment.

"This is an important first step towards getting fans back, with the end goal of full stadia – hopefully by the end of the Men's Euros. We would like to thank all authorities for their support throughout this process."

English Football League chairman Rick Parry added: "The Carabao Cup is a prized asset of the EFL, a great competition for clubs to win and always a fantastic occasion so we are absolutely delighted to see supporters back for the showpiece final between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, in what will hopefully be another important milestone along the way to a full return of fans."

  • 17 April-3 May: Snooker World Championships, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield – Up to 1,000 people a day (indoor seated)
 
  • 18 April: FA Cup semi-final (Leicester v Southampton), Wembley – 4,000 (outdoor seated)
 
  • 24-25 April: Three 10k runs, Hatfield Park – 3,000 people and up to 3,000 spectators at each event (outdoor, mass participation run)
 
  • 25 April: Carabao Cup final (Manchester City v Tottenham), Wembley – 8,000 people (outdoor, seated)
 
  • 15 May – FA Cup Final (TBD), Wembley – 21,000 people (outdoor, seated)

In developing the scheme, officials will take into account three factors – whether an individual has received the vaccine, has recently tested negative for the virus, or has "natural immunity" having tested positive in the previous six months. The NHS is said to be currently working on ways of providing people with the means to demonstrate their Covid status through "digital and non-digital routes".

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: "We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen."

Spurs are playing their first domestic final since 2015 when they take on City in the Carabao Cup final and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust is unhappy there was no consultation prior the decision being made.

"We know Spurs fans will have many questions about the announcement," a statement read. "And we would like to provide answers. But we can't. Because none of the decision makers have consulted with or even spoken to supporter groups at either competing club, or to the national fan organisation, ahead of today's statement.

"This not only displays a complete disregard for the fans, it risks undermining the confidence needed in how the event is being conducted."

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