Prime Minister Boris Johnson has officially announced the government’s ‘roadmap’ to take the country out of its third national lockdown.
In a direct address to the nation yesterday, and coming just over seven weeks after the reintroducing of national restrictions in England for a third time amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the government’s roadmap will see the economy reopen over a number of weeks, lifting measures for separate sectors at four different stages.
Mr Johnson claimed that this exit strategy was designed in such a way as to be “irreversible”.
The ‘COVID-19 RESPONSE – SPRING 2021‘ roadmap document published on the gov.uk website clearly sets out the ‘Four Steps’ method for the easing of restrictions.
But it’s the all-important ‘Step Three’ that football fans will want to keep an eye on.
While people have been barred from entering sporting venues all together since December when the tiers system was scrapped, the Prime Minister’s plan has now set out the way forward.
And so, depending on if the government deems it to be safe, from 17th May at the earliest, the largest seated stadiums across the country that can properly space out fans – including Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium – will be allowed up to 10,000 people inside, or to be a quarter full – whichever is lower.
Also under the plans, smaller outdoor venues will be capped at 4,000 or 50% capacity, whichever is lower, and indoor sporting events at 1,000 or 50% capacity.
This means that fans could be allowed back inside stadiums for the final weekend of the Premier League.
The Football Association said it was “absolutely delighted” at the plan to allow fans back in stadiums, because “the game is simply not the same without them”.
While it may be a little too early to tempt fate, this news is likely to be music to the ears of the blue side of the city as, if all goes to plan and the winning streak continues, it raises the prospect of Manchester City lifting the trophy in front of their fans at home after playing Everton on 23rd May.
Manchester United on the other hand are away that weekend, but fans may still be allowed to cheer on their team when they play against Wolves at Molineux Stadium.
It’s not just dates for the Premier League that football fans need to mark in their diaries though, as the FA Cup Final on 15th May could also be used as a test event for the new rules, and then they also look set to be able to attend the delayed Euro 2020 matches at Wembley this summer.
The stadium is due to host seven matches including all three of England’s group games, a last-16 clash, both semi-finals and the final.
Even grassroots football can resume from 29 March too.
If it’s not football you’re a fan of though, you might be pleased to know that the other major sporting events set to benefit from the roadmap to end lockdown include Wimbledon, Royal Ascot, the British Grand Prix and cricket internationals, as well as several non-elite sporting facilites such as tennis and basketball courts and open-air swimming also reopening on 29th March.
So, there’s plenty to look forward to.