By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
Several of the UK major sports bodies, including the English Football Association, the English Premier League, Scottish Football and the England and Wales Cricket Board, have sent a joint letter to the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and other political leaders supporting the idea of so-called ‘Covid Passports’ to permit full stadia at major sporting events this Summer.
These bodies have stated that the return of crowds at sporting events after 17 May is currently based on social distancing, which means that sporting venues will find it difficult to increase capacities above 25% of the total capacity of their venues.
This means that, for example, only 22,500 fans will be allowed to attend the England group games of the EURO 2020 tournament at Wembley Stadium. Whilst it is hoped that Wembley will be, at least, half full for the semi-finals, a full capacity crowd of 90,000 for the final will only be possible with some kind of ‘Covid Passports’.
Plans for such Passports have been widely criticised by Conservative MPs and opposition parties.
However, sports governing bodies are putting pressure on politicians to support the use of ‘Covid Certificates’ as a “credible option” for major sports events, which would help to “end sports financial crisis” as a result of the Pandemic.
These Passports have been criticised, in some quarters, as being discriminatory and exclusive and contrary to civil rights. Therefore, the sports bodies are recommending that the Passports must include testing for Corona Virus, as well as immunity, so that people, who cannot or do not want to have a vaccination, are still able to attend events, if they do not have the Virus. Also, the sports bodies recommend that the Passports should be time limited.
The letter from the sports bodies acknowledges that “our stadia can only be fully filled with an assurance process” and adds that “this process must ensure that everyone can access stadia and must include arrangements that would verify a negative Covid test or an antibody test or vaccination certificate.”
Until the Pandemic ends, the conundrum for sporting bodies and governments remains, namely, to ensure the safety of sports fans and the prevention of the spread of the Virus through mass gatherings. A difficult circle to square!