LONDON (AP) — Up to 10,000 supporters could be allowed back into English Premier League stadiums for the final day of the season in May and in time for Wembley Stadium hosting European Championship games in plans announced by the government on Monday.
May 17 is the earliest day for the implementation of stage three of the gradual easing of England's coronavirus lockdown that could see sports venues reopened to spectators. The Premier League ends on May 23.
Stadiums with more than 40,000 seats, including the home of Premier League leader Manchester City, will be allowed up to 10,000 fans spaced out. Smaller major venues will be permitted a quarter capacity.
But some sports in England could see fans return in April as part of pilots testing spectators to research how events can take place in the future without any social distancing. English football authorities have been hoping the League Cup final on April 25 and the FA Cup final on May 15 could be test events for the return of spectators.
The release of plans for the reopening of sports to fans is a boost to England's role in staging seven games at the rescheduled Euro 2020 across June and July, including the semifinals and final.
The final stage of the government plan, in which all legal limits on social conduct are removed after 15 months of closure, is set for June 21. That is a week before the scheduled start of Wimbledon, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic.
Other leading European countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are yet to announce plans for the return of spectators to sports stadiums.
The British government says the dates for the easing of lockdown could all be postponed if infections rise.
Up to 2,000 fans were allowed back into some stadiums across England in December but all venues were shut again as coronavirus restrictions were tightened later in the month due to the spread of new variants of COVID-19.
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