British sports chiefs back use of 'vaccine passports' to fill stadiums

London (AFP) –


British sports chiefs say they would accept the introduction of coronavirus "vaccine passports" if they enable the return of capacity crowds as quickly as possible.

In a letter to lawmakers, a number of bodies including the Football Association, Premier League, Rugby Football Union and England and Wales Cricket Board said current social-distancing rules would be "insufficient to end sport's Covid financial crisis".

Test events are being launched over the coming weeks as part of the government's roadmap out of lockdown, with a FA Cup semi-final and the FA Cup final among pilots for the "Covid status certification" scheme.

Britain plans to issue identification showing whether people are vaccinated, have antibodies or have tested negative, despite opposition from lawmakers in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's own party.

Johnson and opposition leader Keir Starmer are among several politicians to be told by sporting organisations that vaccine and testing passports are a "credible option" to achieve full venues.

"All of our sports can see the benefit that a Covid certification process offers in getting more fans safely back to their sport as quickly as possible," the joint letter says. "We know that our stadia can only be fully filled with an assurance process.

"This process must ensure that everyone can access stadia and must include arrangements that would verify a negative Covid test or an antibody test or vaccination certification.

"The final approach must not be discriminatory, should protect privacy, and have clear exit criteria."

Under current plans, from May 17 stadiums in England will be allowed to open with a 25-percent capacity limit, up to a maximum of 10,000 spectators.

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

Britain has administered around 32 million first vaccine doses -- around 60 percent of the adult population -- in one of the world's most successful inoculation drives.

But even with the swift rollout, full venues at major sports events are understood to be unlikely until late in the English sporting summer at the earliest.

A government spokesman said: "We welcome the constructive approach from major British sports as we explore how testing Covid certification and other steps can help get more fans back into stadiums and other large events safely.

"We want as many fans as possible to be able to enjoy a great British summer of sport, safely."