Britain lifted further lockdown restrictions on May 17, and the British public are looking forward to returning to sporting events over the summer. Successful test events including the Carabao Cup final at the end of April have signalled that fans will be back in stadiums this summer.
A bumper summer of sport lies ahead, with a delayed Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2021 coinciding with the usual festivities of Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and the rest. Telegraph Sport takes a look at the events ahead and what fans can expect.
Scroll to the bottom of the page for information about how a delay to the June 21 “freedom day” will affect sport.
The Premier League, Champions League and Europa League finals
Dates The penultimate matchday has been moved to May 18 and 19 to ensure the final two rounds of games this season can be played with fans. The last game of the season is the following Sunday, May 23. The Europa League final is May 26, while the Champions League final is May 29 .
Likely attendances Within the Government timeline there will be a maximum of 10,000 fans for the final two rounds of Premier League matches. All will be home supporters after the Premier League abandoned plans for the return of away fans amid opposition from clubs and safety groups. For the Europa League final, Manchester United will be offered 2,000 tickets for the match against Villarreal. The Champions League situation remains a great deal more complex. Talks are taking place between the Government and Uefa over a potential last-minute switch from Istanbul to London or Lisbon after Turkey was placed on the travel red list for the all-English final. If it is moved to Wembley, an attendance of 22,000 is likely.
How do I get tickets? Most clubs are allocating ballots with season-ticket holders getting priority. There is already anger amongst fans around pricing, however. Tottenham supporters are annoyed at being forced to pay £60 for a 6pm midweek kick-off against Aston Villa. For the Europa League, ticket portals for a ballot of United fans were up and running until 3pm on Friday, May 7. Ticket arrangements were due to be announced for the Champions League on Saturday due to the Turkey red-list travel wrangles. Uefa is keen to have the issue resolved by Wednesday at the latest, to ensure tickets can go on sale.
How can I watch at home? Sky Sports is the league’s main live broadcaster. BT Sport is the main rights-holder for the two Uefa finals and has previously allowed the Champions League final to be on free-to-air.
Dates June 11-July 11, featuring eight matches at Wembley, including England’s three group stage games. Hampden Park also hosts matches.
Chances of full venues Wembley will initially host crowds of 22,500, but Mark Bullingham, the FA chief executive, is privately confident attendances can be boosted to around 50 per cent of the 90,000 capacity by the semi-final stage. There is cautious hope that the final on July 11 can be full.
How do I get tickets? Most tickets have been sold already, with cancelled seats for matches in Bilbao and Dublin refunded. A fanzone at Trafalgar Square is due to be made available to England fans unable to get tickets – plans are being developed between the London Mayor and Uefa.
How can I watch at home? The event is shared free-to-air between BBC and ITV.
Epsom Derby Festival
Dates June 4 and 5
Likely attendances In the expectation that the racecourse will stick within a 4,000 crowd limit, the Jockey Club has received permission from the Epsom Downs Conservators to put a security ring around the site to stop tens of thousands utilising The Hill, a free area where crowds normally gather.
How do I get a ticket? If the 4,000 limit is confirmed for each day, no further general admission tickets will be made available as they have all been allocated under a ballot system. However, there are a few remaining hospitality seats available in the Duchess Stand Private Boxes at prices in excess of £900.
How can I watch at home? ITV and Racing TV have live coverage.
Dates June 15 to 19
Likely attendances Falling just a few days before Government eases all restrictions, the venue is still holding out hope of allowing 10,000 spectators per day. The minimum organisers are expecting is 4,000 but that includes owners, hospitality box holders and members of the Royal Ascot Racing Club. “Indications are that the daily capacity will be between 4,000 and 10,000 this year and, with that in mind, only the Royal Enclosure and Queen Anne Enclosure will operate, those being the enclosures that can operate with minimal temporary facilities,” a statement on the Ascot website says.
How do I get a ticket? Tickets will be hard to come by if a 4,000 limit is confirmed. Those who purchased places in the Village, Windsor and Heath Enclosures have already been offered “a rollover to 2022 or a refund”, the venue said.
How can I watch at home? ITV and Sky Sports Racing have live coverage.
Tour de France
Dates June 26-July 18
Chances of crowds Spectator plans have yet to be formally announced, but the Tour was one of the few events to beat the pandemic last year, with 5,000 allowed on Champs-Élysées for the final sprint. It seems all but certain greater numbers will be allowed this summer. At the beginning of May, Emmanuel Macron outlined a four-step plan to reopen the country with May 19 announced as a key date for opening up outdoor venues.
Will UK travellers be allowed to go? France has been added to the UK’s "amber" list of countries as part of the reopening of international travel from May 17. Anyone planning to travel to France faces quarantine on their return.
How can I watch at home? ITV4 and Eurosport are the main UK rights-holders
Dates June 28-July 11
Chances of full venues The All England Club is starting out on the basis of 25 per cent of normal capacity, which would equate to 10,500 people per day. Over the course of the tournament, this adds up to 137,500 spectators instead of the usual half-million. In the best-case scenario, thousands more tickets will be made available at the last minute via online sales. The tournament is due to start a week after the Covid-19 roadmap suggests that normal social contact can return. Henman Hill is unlikely to be shut down, but will instead be subject to social-distancing protocols of some kind.
How do I get a ticket? Sales will start some time in early June, and there is likely to be more than a single tranche. Many of the show-court tickets will go to those who have spent up to £80,000 on debentures – effectively making themselves season-ticket holders. As for the rest, it will be interesting to see how the club balances everyday supporters with the interests of corporate hospitality.
How can I watch at home? The BBC, as normal, will be screening wall-to-wall coverage across its channels.
The 149th Open
Dates July 15 to 18 at Royal St George’s
Chances of full venues After being cancelled last year, The Open returns for the first time since Shane Lowry’s 2019 victory at Royal Portrush – and organisers have been pushing for a full or partially reduced crowd since February. There has been no significant update on crowd numbers since the event’s chief executive, Martin Slumbers, said the organisation was proceeding with “cautious optimism”.
How do I get a ticket? Ticket sales have been suspended amid previous uncertainty, but members of “The One Club” have been told they will be first to get access to both tickets and hospitality.
How can I watch at home? Sky Sports has live coverage, with BBC showing highlights.
British Grand Prix
Dates July 16 to 18 at Silverstone
Chances of full venues The British Grand Prix is gearing up to be almost full – with 350,000 expected through gates at Silverstone over three days. Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle said last week that “demand for tickets is at a level we have never seen before”. A new grandstand, built to accommodate the demand, has been erected.
How can I get a ticket? Tickets for general admission on the day of the race, Sunday, have already sold out, but a small number of grandstand seats remained as of last week. Following the addition of a sprint race on Saturday, the hosts are anticipating a record Saturday attendance of 110,000.
How can I watch at home? Free-to-air on Channel 4, and shared with Sky Sports Sports Mix, Sky One.
Dates England v New Zealand Tests: June 2-6 (Lord's), June 10-14 (Edgbaston); England v Sri Lanka T20s: June 23, 24, 26; ODIs: June 29, July 1, 4; England v Pakistan ODIs: July 8, 10, 13; T20s: July 16, 18, 20
Chances of full venues For the New Zealand Test, both Lord's and Edgbaston are restricted to crowds of 25 per cent capacity in line with stage three of the Government's lockdown roadmap — around 7,500 and 6,000 respectively. However, the timing is perfect for cricket to start returning to full venues for the rest of the summer.
How do I get tickets? Lord’s and Edgbaston are sold out for the New Zealand Test having been among the first venues to begin their sales processes. However, Lord’s, Edgbaston, Cardiff and Headingley all have tickets available for the remaining fixtures which are on track to be full.
How can I watch at home? Sky is the rights-holder for home English fixtures.
Dates July 21-Aug 21
Chances of full venues The timing of the competition is perfect for the competition to establish itself with big crowds. The Oval, Edgbaston, Trent Bridge, Headingley, Lord’s, Old Trafford, Sophia Gardens and Ageas Bowl all hope to be able to offer full venue and hospitality access.
How do I get tickets? Season tickets, group stage, “eliminator” (play-off), and final tickets are already on sale via the Hundred website.
How can I watch at home? Sky has the bulk of the games, but 10 men’s and women’s games will be screened on the BBC as the competition looks to generate new audiences.
Key dates May 17 for two matches from week 19 of the season through to June 12 for week 22. The Premiership Rugby Final is due to be held on June 26
Chances of full venues The timeline only allows for venues to be 25 per cent full in line with the Government’s timeline, but Bristol Bears and Newcastle Falcons get an extra game with a crowd after the week 19 fixtures were moved to the first night that crowds return, Monday May 17. Details of the final have yet to be confirmed, but the date – five days after the June 21 scheduled release of full venue openings – means the sport can hope for at least a 50 per cent capacity crowd.
How do I get tickets? For the league run-in, most clubs are expected to follow Bristol Bears’ plan for their clash against Gloucester. For their fixture on May 17, season card and hospitality members are given two days to secure their seats before they go on general sale, four days prior to the fixture.
How do I watch at home? BT Sport is the main rights-holder, with highlights on Channel 5.
The Lions tour to South Africa
Dates Jul 3-Aug 7 for a three-Test series against the Springboks, which has been shortened by two games from the tour in New Zealand in 2017.
Chances of full venues South Africa’s economy could miss out on up to £300 million if the tour goes ahead without fans, according to a study commissioned by SA Rugby, which admits it will “do anything” to get some supporters into stadiums. As of the start of May, all the games will go ahead behind closed doors, with the pace of vaccination in Africa’s most industrialised nation slow.
How do I get a ticket? As it stands, there appears to be no chance for British and Irish-based fans.
How can I watch at home? Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Rugby.
The Olympics and Paralympics
Dates The Olympics takes place in Tokyo on July 23-August 8 while the Paralympics run from August 24-Sep 5.
Chances of full venues With just three months to go there remains uncertainty over whether all events will be behind closed doors. Local concern continues to mount after the Government ruled the city will remain in a state of Covid emergency until the end of May. Japanese cities entered a new two-week “state of emergency” in May – which could be extended further – and, speaking at a press conference outlining new measures for the Games, Hidemasa Nakamura, the Tokyo 2020 delivery officer, said “frequent testing” will be key to getting local spectators inside.
How do I get a ticket? Overseas spectators have already been banned from the Games, with a decision on whether to allow the Japanese public to attend to be taken in June. Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccination, has suggested empty venues seemed likely, causing a £500m black hole in revenue as a result.
How do I watch at home? The BBC is a main Olympics rights-holder, but Discovery+ will also be showing extensive coverage of the Games.
What happens if ‘freedom day’ is scrapped?
By Ben Rumsby
There are mounting fears the June 21 'freedom day' could be scrapped as the Indian variant of coronavirus continues to spread across the UK.
Ministers have also admitted "local lockdowns" may be reintroduced in hotspots for the variant.
But what might the implications of this be for sport?
Smaller crowds at the European Championship and other events
Unless the Government reverses Monday's relaxation of restrictions, crowds of up to 10,000 will continue to be allowed at mass events. It had also agreed that 22,500 could attend England's Euro 2020 group games, which take place before June 21. Any delay to 'freedom day' could, however, wreck plans to scale up crowd sizes to between 50 and 100 per cent between then and the final. The same could apply to England rugby and cricket matches, Wimbledon, The Open and the British Grand Prix, putting a dampener on plans for a glorious summer of sport.
Ticket-holders from local lockdown areas banned from attending
If the rules are the same as those imposed towards the end of last year, anyone living in an area placed in a local lockdown would be banned from leaving it. That would include ticket-holders for Euro 2020 and other events. Anyone affected would doubtless be entitled to a refund but that would be scant consolation for those forced to miss out on a trip to Wembley, Twickenham, Lord's, Wimbledon or Silverstone. There would be pressure to exempt those who had been fully vaccinated or could provide a negative Covid-19 test.
A further delay to the return of parkrun
As revealed by Telegraph Sport, the entire future of parkrun is under threat after fewer than a fifth of venues granted permission for its long-awaited return on June 5. Scrapping 'freedom day' would do little to convince landowners and local authorities to change their minds. Participation in most grassroots sport should be unaffected provided the May 17 relaxation of restrictions is not reversed. However, extending social-distancing beyond June 21 could affect the size of gym classes.
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