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10,000 fans could still attend FA Cup Final on May 15 – two days before the supporter ban is lifted

Ten thousand fans may yet be allowed to attend the FA Cup Final at Wembley despite the match being scheduled two days before supporters are allowed to return to live sport.

Sportsmail understands the Football Association is preparing to apply to Government to make the match a test event for 10,000 fans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed his plans yesterday to move the country towards normality as infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid fall.

Boris Johnson's roadmap has excited fans but full capacity cannot be achieved until June 21

Boris Johnson's roadmap has excited fans but full capacity cannot be achieved until June 21

Boris Johnson’s roadmap has excited fans but full capacity cannot be achieved until June 21

Arsenal celebrated an FA Cup Final triumph over rivals Chelsea last season without fans

Arsenal celebrated an FA Cup Final triumph over rivals Chelsea last season without fans

Arsenal celebrated an FA Cup Final triumph over rivals Chelsea last season without fans

The four-step plan includes proposals to allow up to 10,000 fans to return to live sport from May 17 in step three and potentially to allow full capacity in stadiums from June 21 in step four.

It initially appeared the 140th FA Cup Final was destined to miss out on spectators because the showpiece match is scheduled for May 15, two days before the start of step three.

Sources say the date of the game cannot be moved because the stadium must be handed over to UEFA soon after the match in advance of the Euros. 

However, the FA is desperate for the Cup Final to be played in front of spectators and there is also a strong argument to test the new facilities ahead of Euro 2020.

The pedestrian ramp leading to Wembley has been demolished and replaced by steps

The pedestrian ramp leading to Wembley has been demolished and replaced by steps

The pedestrian ramp leading to Wembley has been demolished and replaced by steps

Since July last year, work has been taking place to remove the pedestrian ramp – or pedway – on the approach to the stadium and replace it with a new structure, called the ‘Olympic Steps’.

The structural aspects of the project are due to be completed this month and landscaping finished in time for the first European Championship game at Wembley between England and Croatia in Group D on Sunday June 13.

A test event with 10,000 fans will be required to demonstrate the safety of the stadium following the works.

The FA will ask government if 10,000 fans can attend the  Cup Final

The FA will ask government if 10,000 fans can attend the  Cup Final

Boris Johnson has published a roadmap detailing how Covid restrictions can be eased

Boris Johnson has published a roadmap detailing how Covid restrictions can be eased

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap reveals plans to ease lockdown restrictions but, as it stands, the return of fans will come too late for the FA Cup Final on May 15 

In the circumstances, that event could be the Croatia game since the stadium capacity will be limited to 10,000 spectators anyway, under the rules set out in the roadmap.

However, FA bosses would prefer to have tested the facility in advance, before the eyes of the world are on them.

In their view, the FA Cup Final represents the best chance to do this and will also enable fans to watch the spectacle first hand.

Last season’s final, in which Arsenal defeated Chelsea 2-1, was played behind closed doors as a result of the pandemic.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won the Cup for Arsenal last season with two goals

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won the Cup for Arsenal last season with two goals

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won the Cup for Arsenal last season with two goals

Of all the stadiums in the country, Wembley is the most spacious with 90,000 seats and it has wide concourses and multiple entry points, which would allow social distancing to be maintained.

Any application from the FA would be evaluated according to the Prime Minister’s four tests, which will dictate the pace of change as restrictions are eased.

They focus on the level of Covid infection, success of the vaccine roll-out, deaths and hospitalisations resulting from the virus.

England beat Croatia 2-1 at Wembley in the UEFA Nations League in 2018

England beat Croatia 2-1 at Wembley in the UEFA Nations League in 2018

England beat Croatia 2-1 at Wembley in the UEFA Nations League in 2018

In addition, government would need to consider the risk of transmission, not just in the stadium, but on public transport as fans make their way to the ground.

Once the Euros are underway there is now a possibility that the semi-finals on July 6 and 7, and the final on July 11, at Wembley, could be played in front of full houses.

The government’s roadmap earmarks the beginning of step four on June 21 ‘at the earliest’. If that timetable is adhered to, it would mean the return of large sporting events without social distancing, and full capacities.

However, Whitehall sources stress that step four is still a long way off and there is no certainty about when that stage will be reached.

While death rates and infections from Covid are currently falling rapidly, it is anticipated that the virus will spread more quickly after children return to school. Maintaining the high-speed roll-out of the vaccine will be crucial to easing restrictions, including the return of fans to sport.

Johnson’s roadmap sets out each stage of the lifting of lockdown.

Schools will return on March 8, and there will be a five week gap between each of the four main stages of the plan, with scientists having won the argument in government that time is needed to assess the impact at each point.

Source: Daily

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