Sport

Tottenham Hotspur to Trial Vaccine Passports Ahead of New Premier League Season

Tottenham Hotspur has become the first Premier League football club to announce they will be trialling the use of vaccine passports ahead of the new season. Supporters attending upcoming matches will be instructed to show Covid passes, but unlike the vaccine passport scheme the Government hopes to introduce later this year, proof of a negative test will be sufficient. As such, these ‘trials’ won’t be much different from the 10 trial events already carried out by the Government earlier this year which identified only 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants.

The decision by Spurs comes amid reports that Premier League fans, players and staff could all need to have received two doses of a Covid vaccine for matches to go ahead later this year. MailOnline has more.

Spurs have told supporters that all adults will have to show a pass before entering the stadium ahead of their men’s and women’s teams playing Arsenal on Sunday August 8th.

The Covid pass – generated by the NHS app – confirms a person has had two doses of vaccine, has obtained a negative test for the virus or has natural immunity stemming from a previous infection.

The move comes after Government issued advice for event organisers encouraging them to use Covid passports where large crowds are in attendance, including at sports events.

However, while the Premier League is working on plans, it does not expect all clubs to have a Covid certification scheme in place by the first round of matches starting on August 13th and Spurs are the first to unveil its arrangements.

A number of top flight clubs spoken to by Sportsmail have no plans to use Covid certification in pre-season friendlies despite large attendances, and they are still awaiting advice on what is expected when the league matches begin. …

The Premier League is supportive of establishing plans for some form of passport if it enables clubs to maintain full capacity, even if Covid surges in the autumn and winter.

Spurs said their trial was part of preparations for October.

“This follows recent Government announcements and the necessity for the Club to begin preparations for the potential of full vaccination against Covid being a condition of entry to large events from October 1st.”

“It also further ensures the safety and comfort of our supporters, players and staff as we begin hosting capacity crowds for the first time since March, 2020,” the club added.

Worth reading in full.

The Case for Vaccine Passports Is Strong, Says Michael Gove

Michael Gove says there is a “strong case” for the introduction of vaccine passports “in appropriate locations”, such as at Premier League football matches, arguing that “everything… we can do in order to reduce [the risk of Covid transmission], we should”. He hopes that “some form of certification” will be introduced across all four nations in the U.K. “This,” he believes, “is the right way to go.”

In an interview with the BBC, Gove said that vaccine passports would “make sure we can have greater confidence that big events are not likely to be super-spreader events”. He cited the “spike” in Covid cases following the Euro 2020 games – which experts believe helped squash the latest peak – and said certification would help to “make sure that major activities… are safe” because those who are vaccinated are “less likely to be carriers of the virus”.

This is exactly the sort of “nonsense” that Hugh Osmond, Founder of Punch Taverns, criticised on Sunday when he highlighted that, under Government plans, someone who is fully vaccinated but has Covid will be allowed into a “large venue” but someone who is unvaccinated yet doesn’t have Covid will be barred.

By saying that certification checks will make venue owners more confident that their events are not likely to be “super-spreader events”, Gove also appears to have forgotten the results from 10 recent Government trial events. These identified just 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants *without* the use of vaccine passports.

Despite all this, Gove insists that “the case for certification, overall, is a strong one”.

You can watch the BBC interview here.

Stop Press: Gove says that those who refuse the vaccine are “selfish”, according to Politics For All.

Premier League Players and Staff Also Face Mandatory Vaccination

The reach of the Government’s plans for mandatory vaccination continues to grow, with reports now suggesting that Premier League players and staff will need to have received two doses of a Covid vaccine for matches to go ahead later this year. This follows the news on Tuesday that, under new Government plans, fans will be denied entry to sports events with capacities of 16,000 spectators or more if they can’t show proof of vaccination. The MailOnline has more.

The Government announced earlier this week that fans would require a Covid pass showing their vaccination status to attend matches from October 1st.

Now Sportsmail has learned that this guidance will also apply to players and other match-day personnel. Testing twice a week and Covid-secure red zones at stadiums and training grounds have kept the Premier League going almost without interruption since its resumption after the first lockdown in June 2020.

But under the Government’s new guidance, negative tests will no longer be enough for players. Top-flight clubs were anxious to avoid being seen to jump the queue for vaccinations, but many now face a race against time to ensure their players receive two jabs within the stipulated eight-week window. …

The Premier League are supportive of Covid passes as they believe the measure could help them operate stadiums at full capacity next season and they are planning to bring them in next month.

However, not all the players are so enthusiastic, with youngsters at numerous clubs understood to have reservations about being jabbed. …

Sportsmail has been told that only two of the 20 Premier League clubs have so far succeeded in vaccinating all of their staff.

Any players unwilling to be vaccinated would be able to seek an exemption on medical or religious grounds, although the process for doing so has yet to be established.

Several British and Irish Lions declined a vaccination before leaving for South Africa, while not all of the Olympians in Tokyo have been jabbed.

The Government guidance applies to all sports, some of whom are less enthusiastic about the introduction of Covid passes. Numerous EFL clubs have raised objections, arguing it will deprive them of young fans and hurt them financially. …

The Premier League are working with clubs to ensure all players and staff are vaccinated as soon as possible, as they are committed to supporting the Government’s policy.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Passport Checks Could Be Introduced at Football Grounds

The definition of “large venues” remains unclear in the context of the introduction of domestic vaccine passports. Reports suggest that unvaccinated Brits could be denied entry to sports events with capacities of 16,000 spectators or more, under new Government plans. The MailOnline has the story.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last night that everyone who wants to go to a nightclub in the autumn will have to be fully vaccinated.

And he indicated that “other venues where large crowds gather” could also be made to adopt the checks.

Sportsmail understands that would include football matches and other sports events, with large crowds in attendance.

And if the measure is introduced, it is understood Government could be expected to fall back on the previous definition of “large crowds”, set out in step three of the roadmap out of lockdown, which was a capacity of 16,000 spectators. 

However, any legal requirement on football fans to be vaccinated before they attend games – a negative Covid test would not be enough – would only come into force if coronavirus infections rates, deaths and hospitalisations are high or there are dangerous variants circulating.

While the current focus is very much on nightclubs, Government sees the ability to mandate event organisers, including football clubs, as an additional tool “in the locker” should Covid cases surge and cause serious problems.

Scientists have been encouraged by the results of the early phases of the Events Research Programme, which revealed few infections linked to outdoor sports events.

Results from the latest phase, which included much larger capacities at the Euro 2020 final and semi-finals are yet to be analysed and published.

It is worth highlighting here that results from 10 other trial events identified only 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants. Either way, it seems as though some football officials support the move to have vaccine passports checked at the gates.

The Prime Minister’s willingness to enforce the requirement for Covid vaccinations by law, goes some way to meeting the demands of the Premier League.

It has repeatedly called for the use of Covid Passports to maintain large crowds in the autumn and winter, even if the virus surges, as well as asking for a consistent approach.

However, the top flight, the EFL and other sports have said the passports should include proof of vaccination, but also evidence of a negative test of natural immunity from previous infection, in order to give everyone, the chance to attend the game. …

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he could not rule out Covid passports being used for matches, but said work was ongoing into where they might be needed.

Worth reading in full.

England Fans Told They Won’t be Allowed into Quarter-Final Match Stadium – Even if They Have a Ticket

Officials have gone a step further in preventing England fans from seeing the Euro 2020 quarter-final match against Ukraine in Rome this weekend, telling supporters who have recently arrived in Italy that they won’t be allowed in the stadium – even if they have a ticket. Sky News has the story.

A statement issued by the Italian Embassy in London on Thursday said that due to current coronavirus restrictions in the country, “anybody who has been in the U.K. in the previous 14 days, irrespective of their nationality or residency, will not be admitted to the stadium, even if they have a ticket”.

Italy is on the U.K.’s “Amber List”, and all U.K. arrivals in Italy currently have to isolate for five days.

The statement continued: “Only those who can prove that they have arrived in Italy at least six days previously, have observed five days of quarantine, and have taken a post-quarantine Covid test with a negative result will be allowed into the Stadio Olimpico.

“Being exempt from quarantine in Italy for any legal reason, will not translate into permission to enter the stadium. For example, travellers who are transiting through Italy for less than 36 hours or visiting briefly for work reasons are not required to quarantine, but they will not be permitted to enter the stadium.”

Anyone found to be not in quarantine “will be punished”, officials said.

“Fans based in the U.K. should therefore not travel to Italy to attend the match on Saturday at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome,” they added. …

The fresh travel warning comes after the FA said on Wednesday that it “will not be selling any tickets via the England Supporters Travel Club for this fixture” due to U.K. and Italian travel restrictions.

Worth reading in full.

England Fans Told Not to Travel to Rome for Quarter-Final Match

Thousands of UEFA officials have been given a free pass to avoid travel quarantine rules when travelling to the U.K. to watch Euro 2020 matches, but fans are given no such leeway. England supporters have been told not to travel to Rome this weekend to watch the quarter-final match against Ukraine, with a minister saying in a teacher-to-pupil-like fashion stay home and “challenge [yourselves to make the players] hear us from Rome”. Sky News has more.

The Three Lions beat Germany last night to set up a showdown in Rome with Ukraine but travel restrictions mean most England fans will not be able to soak up the atmosphere and the summer heat in the Eternal City.

Italy is on the U.K.’s “Amber List”, and all U.K. arrivals in Italy currently have to isolate for five days.

Speaking to Sky News, Government Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan called on England fans to “watch from home and to cheer on the team as loudly as you can”.

“Obviously it is very difficult not to smile just to see all those wonderful flags waving, it just makes you so proud of our team doing so well last night,” she said.

“But really, the ask is to watch from home and to cheer on the team as loudly as you can.

“I think the challenge is can they hear us from Rome? And I’m sure we’ll take up that opportunity to be as supportive as we can of our amazing England team.” …

Those visiting Italy must have proof of a negative coronavirus test taken in the 48 hours before they travel.

Upon arrival, all passengers from the U.K. must fill out a passenger locator form before completing five days of isolation.

If they have proof of a negative Covid test, a traveller can be released after those five days.

However, this means even if fans board a flight to Italy on Wednesday, they will still have to isolate until at least Sunday likely having to watch the game from a hotel room.

The Government’s travel rules mean fans would have to isolate again upon returning to the U.K..

Worth reading in full.

If any England fans are planning to make the trip, and have thought of a cunning way to get into the stadium, please email us here.

UEFA Officials Allowed to Visit U.K. Without Quarantine

The chances of Brits holidaying abroad this year are slim at best. But the Government, while enforcing severe restrictions on its own citizens, has decided to allow almost three thousand football “VIPs” to attend the Euro 2020 finals without having to abide by quarantine rules. The Telegraph has the story.

Ministers are facing a backlash from senior Tory MPs over the decision to exempt UEFA officials, politicians and sponsors from having to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in the U.K.

It comes days after it was reported that UEFA had threatened to move the matches to Budapest unless ministers relented on the quarantine rules. Sources said the U.K. would have lost out if it had failed to compromise.

While the agreement still needs final sign-off by public health officials, sources told the Telegraph the exemption was due to commence on July 5th – a day before the first semi-final at Wembley. It will remain in place until after the final, which is being played on July 11th. 

The number of VIPs due to travel to the U.K. is expected to be in the “low thousands”, although Government sources say many will only remain for one match.

The exemption was personally negotiated by Dan Rosenfield, Mr Johnson’s Chief of Staff, who is an avid football fan and supports Manchester United. The details emerged after ministers announced on Tuesday that the capacity at Wembley would be increased to 75%, enabling 60,000 fans to attend the semi-finals and final.

The VIPs will be required to provide a negative pre-departure test and undergo testing during their stay. They will be allowed to stay in tournament hotels and travel between matches and official meetings, but will be told to limit their movements outside these permitted activities. It was unclear whether they will be allowed to dine at restaurants. 

David Davis, a former Cabinet minister,  said the decision on VIPs was “morally inconsistent”, while another MP said it was “absurd and indefensible”. 

British holidaymakers currently have to isolate at home for 10 days and pay for at least two PCR tests if they visit “Amber List” countries, from which the vast majority of the football VIPs will be coming.

On Thursday, ministers will consider exempting fully vaccinated Britons from quarantine on their return from amber destinations, but the change is not expected until after the Euro finals. Holidaymakers are also likely to still face expensive PCR tests in order to track variants.

Worth reading in full.

Government to Exempt 2,500 Football Officials from Travel Quarantine Rules so Euro Finals Can Take Place at Wembley

Thousands of Brits had their holiday plans ruined when Portugal was demoted to the travel “Amber List” earlier this month. But now the Government is considering making 2,500 football officials exempt from quarantine rules so that the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final can take place in England. The Guardian has the story.

The proposal would exempt about 2,500 UEFA and FIFA officials, politicians, sponsors and broadcasters from the quarantine restrictions faced by ordinary travellers, according to the Times.

On Monday, the Government announced a four-week delay to the final easing of lockdown restrictions in England in order to allow more people to be vaccinated to combat the Delta coronavirus variant.

The only teams playing in the tournament on England’s “Green List” of countries that do not require isolation on arrival are Wales and Scotland.

All others are on the “Amber List” bar Turkey, which is on the “Red List”. Travellers arriving from Red List countries must stay in a quarantine hotel for 10 days while those from amber list countries must self-isolate at home for 10 days, although they can get released from quarantine early if they pay for a private test, at least five days after arrival, and it comes back negative.

Asked how it would be fair for VIPs to have a different set of rules from the general public, the Policing and Crime Minister, Kit Malthouse, said: “I haven’t seen the detail of that particular proposal. One of the things we are trying to do though is obviously accommodate the Euros as much as we possibly can.

“And while much of the concern around coronavirus regulations has been about whether one situation is fair compared with another situation what we’re generally trying to do is make difficult decisions about the path of a virus, at the same time as trying to enable the ordinary operation of very special events like the Euros and, no doubt, health professionals and the immigration professionals at the Home Office and then the senior ministers who make a decision will take all of that into account as we proceed.

“And look, it’s a great competition, we’re very lucky to have it, we’re trying to make it happen with as much kind of satisfaction all round as we possibly can and that will be taken into account in the decision over the next few days.”

So what about everyone else, Boris?

Worth reading in full.

Euro 2020 and Wimbledon Matches Used as Pilot Events for New “NHS Covid Pass”

A new “NHS Covid Pass”, showing a user’s vaccine status, as well as recent test results, will be piloted at upcoming Euro 2020 and Wimbledon matches and could later be introduced at a range of other sport and entertainment events, despite the Government deciding against making Covid status certificates compulsory for attendance at mass gatherings. The Mail has the story.

The existing NHS App, which already provides details of a person’s vaccinations, has been modified so that there is an option to enter Covid test results.

Those who have not been double-jabbed will be able to do a lateral flow test at home and then log it on the app. Spot checks will be performed on a small number of spectators arriving at grounds to show they are being truthful about their negative result.

A Whitehall source said… “The NHS Covid Pass will help us to safely unlock capacity crowds at the Euros and Wimbledon and hopefully deliver a fantastic summer of sporting success.” …

Wimbledon and Euro 2020 matches will be used as pilot events as ministers consider whether the NHS Covid Pass should be used more widely.

The Government has ruled out making it compulsory for venues to make people share their coronavirus status. Instead, they are concentrating on giving organisers the option of asking fans to use the NHS Covid Pass so big sporting events can go ahead safely.

All courts at Wimbledon will operate at 50% capacity for most of the tournament, which kicks off in less than two weeks.

Both [only!] the women’s singles final on July 10th and the men’s singles final on July 11th are set to be played in front of full capacity crowds.

Worth reading in full.

Stadium Cancels Tickets for June 26th After “Discussions With Government”

A reader contacted us to tell us he just received the email above from the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, cancelling his tickets for the June 26th cricket match between England and Sri Lanka – five days after “Freedom Day”. It reads: “You will be aware of the continuing uncertainty around the return of supporters to sports stadia. In light of this and following discussions with Government and public health agencies, the capacity of the stadium has been restricted for this match.”

The reader comments:

Now, the really telling part of this is where it says “following discussions with Government and public health agencies” because this shows us that the decision to cancel most fans’ tickets hasn’t been made by those at Hampshire County Cricket Club because of what they think is the best approach – it is because of what they have been told to do.

I don’t want to spread fear over a delay to the easing of social distancing while we await Monday’s announcement or confirmation, but it seems incredibly unlikely to me that the Government would tell Hampshire CCC to reduce the capacity for this game if they hadn’t already made up their minds that social distancing will still be in place at least up until June 26th.

The signs are becoming ominous indeed. It will now be a pleasant surprise if Boris comes out on Monday and announces – as he should – that Freedom Day is going ahead as planned. As usual, the doom-mongers around the Prime Minister are winning. Will they ever let us go?

Meanwhile, more than two months ago in Texas

Apr 5, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; A view of the crowd and the fans and the stands during the playing of the Canadian and USA national anthems before the game between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports