More than 10,000 fans could attend FA Cup final without social distancing

Robbie Copeland
The FA Cup Final could be one of the first UK sporting events to host crowds this year
The FA Cup Final could be one of the first UK sporting events to host crowds this year / Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The FA Cup final falls annoyingly short of the government's plans to allow fans back into stadiums.

While phase three of the roadmap to exit lockdown promises to deliver a limited number of fans to the final round of Premier League fixtures on 23 May, the FA Cup's showpiece event comes on 15 May - 48 hours before the planned transition out of Phase 2.

But all hope is not lost. Reports over the weekend suggest that exceptions could be made for the Wembley blockbuster, as it has been identified as a crucial test event to gauge the viability of a large scale return of fans.

There is some ambiguity over how many will be allowed in - the AP's Rob Harris says it will be 'more than 10,000', while Sky Sports and others say it could be up to 20,000. But in any case, it is likely to exceed the cap of 10,000 spectators which will be imposed on other events until Phase 4 is introduced on 17 June.

The plan is for all fans in attendance to be tested in advance, and kept within one enclosed section of the stadium where no social distancing will be required. If successful, the plan opens the door to the potential for huge crowds at the Euros, where Wembley will be used as one of the central venues.

Despite previous reports that the League Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham could also be used as a test event, there are no new suggestions that will be the case. But Sky Sports do indicate that the FA Cup semi-finals, due for 17 April, could be played in front of some fans - so it seems reasonable that the Carabao Cup could get the same courtesy.

The test events are a key part of the government's plan to reintroduce a degree of normality in the summer, and culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: "These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing.

"We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen. We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.

"These are important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave and that I'm fully focused on delivering."