The EFL Cup Final at Wembley Stadium and an FA Cup Semi-Final are set to be among a range of pilot events hosting audiences as part of the Government’s plan to get big crowds back this summer.

The events will be part of the government’s science-led Events Research Programme (ERP) working closely with local authorities and organisers to undertake studies to get fans and audiences back in safely as restrictions are gradually eased.

The EFL Cup Final on April 25 is to have 8,000 supporters with the FA Cup semi-final on April 18 hosting an audience of 4,000.

The pilots programme will be used to provide key scientific data and research into how small and large-scale events could be permitted to safely reopen in line with the Prime Minister’s Roadmap out of lockdown as part of Step 4, commencing no earlier than June 21.

Venues participating in the programme will test specific settings to collect evidence and best practice. At the World Snooker Championships, Sheffield’s world famous Crucible will test a theatre setting, for example. The evidence will then be shared widely so that venues can prepare to accommodate fuller audiences. This review will be crucial to how venues – from major sport stadiums to comedy clubs, theatres to live music spaces, wedding venues, conference centres and nightclubs – could operate this summer.

Researchers at the events will gather evidence associated with different settings and approaches to managing and mitigating transmission risk. The pilots will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation. COVID-status certification will also be trialled as part of the pilot programme. Researchers will also be at the venues to monitor crowd movements at the pilots and look at how attendees behave in these environments as well as consider the economic impact of any mitigation measures trialled such as changes to the layout.

The initial list of pilot events is as follows:

  • 16 April – Hot Water Comedy Club, Liverpool – 300 people (indoor seated)
  • 18 April – FA Cup Semi-Final – Wembley – 4,000 people (outdoor seated)
  • 17 April – 3 May – Snooker World Championships – Sheffield Crucible Theatre – up to 1,000 people a day (indoor seated)
  • 23-25 April – Luna Outdoor Cinema, Liverpool – 1,000 people (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, Wembley – 8,000 people (outdoor, seated)
  • 28 April – Business Event, Liverpool – 1,000 people (indoor, seated and mixing)
  • 30 April – Circus Nightclub, Liverpool – circa 3,000 people (indoor club night)
  • 15 May – FA Cup Final, Wembley, London -–21,000 people (outdoor, seated)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Our sports stars and great performers need us to find ways to get bums back on seats safely. This science-led pilot programme will be the springboard in getting the buzz back of live performance. We’ve supported the sports and arts with unprecedented sums, but it’s now time to make that Great British Summer of live events a reality.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, Business Secretary, said: “It has been enormously tough for the events sector over the past year, but these pilots are a real beacon of hope as we cautiously emerge from the pandemic. “This programme will not only provide valuable scientific evidence, but also offer confidence to the industry so we can make the most of the great British summer and host large-scale events in a way that’s safe for everybody.”

Mark Bullingham, The FA’s CEO, 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.”

Hugh Brasher, event director of London Marathon Events, said: “The Government’s Event Research Programme is a very significant step towards the safe return of events and London Marathon Events, along with our fellow mass participation event organisers, is doing everything we can to assist the government with this project. We would like to thank everyone involved for their support in putting on the Reunion 10k.”

To build up the evidence base, a number of pilots will include spectators and fans not socially distanced under carefully controlled medical supervision.

The pilot events will also test a range of non-pharmaceutical mitigating interventions during non-socially distanced events such as layout of the venue, face coverings and ventilation. Attendees will be required to take a test both before and after the event in order to ensure event safety and to gather evidence on the pilots.

They will have to adhere to an agreed code of behaviour at the point of ticket purchase and will be required to give consent acknowledging the risk associated with attending a pilot event. They will be required to follow existing Government guidance on the use of face coverings and adhering to event specific rules. Attendees will not be permitted if they have symptoms of COVID-19. They will also have to provide contact details of everyone in their group for NHS Test and Trace.

Wembley Stadium, for example, has already published FAQs for people attending the pilot events.

The Events Research Programme will include looking at risk factors in indoor and outdoor settings; small and large venues; seated and standing events and different forms of audience participation.

Transport to and from events; duration of events and catering and alcohol will also be factors that are looked at. The programme will be run in partnership with local and national health authorities and will be subject to the latest health data. Events may be delayed or cancelled as a result.

The events research programme has two co-advisers reporting to the Culture Secretary and Prime Minister – Theatre director Nicholas Hytner and businessman David Ross.

Image: Wembley Stadium