FA Cup semi-final at Wembley to be part of pilot events for crowd return – BBC Sport

Wembley Stadium
Wembley has been hosting games behind closed doors

One of next month’s FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley will be among the pilot events to trial the return of large crowds to UK venues.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC sports editor Dan Roan that a game on either 17 or 18 April will be part of the trial programme.

The FA Cup final and the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield are also on the schedule.

“We want to get as many people back as safely as possible,” said Dowden.

The semi-final between Chelsea and Manchester City will be shown live on BBC One and the BBC iPlayer on Saturday, 17 April, with Leicester v Southampton on the following day.

Dowden also said more pilot events would be announced later this week after confirmation from the government that the next stage of the planned easing of restrictions on 12 April is on track.

The following stage, scheduled for 17 May, would allow stadia to open with a 25% capacity limit, up to a maximum of 10,000 spectators.

The current plan is then for all restrictions on social contact to be lifted on 21 June.

“We want to make it as simple and convenient as possible for people. That’s why we are conducting these pilots,” Dowden said.

“The plan is to look at factors like one-way systems, ventilation within a stadium and how you interact in terms of getting to and from the venue.”

BBC Sport understands there will be up to 4,000 spectators at one of the Wembley semi-finals and the following weekend the Carabao Cup final could test an attendance of double that.

The possibility of having 20,000 fans at the FA Cup final on 15 May is being explored by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Football Association. Those proposals would need to be agreed with Brent Council.

“The purpose of this is not so much the overall number, it is how they interact with each other,” Dowden added.

“So it’s the social distancing that they have from each other. It’s the behavioural factors.

“We will be testing them before and after to look at spread and look how they behave in the stadium.

“We’re not just chucking everyone into the stadiums, it is being done in a very controlled way and the purpose is to get the rules set can so it can be as safe as possible from the 21 June.”

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