Hopes of a 90,000 European Championship final full house were soaring on Tuesday night after crowd pilots were declared a resounding success by the Culture Secretary. Just 15 cases of Covid-19 emerged among 58,000 people who took part in sport and arts test events – and no infections at all took place during the FA Cup final at Wembley. Buoyed by the results, the Government is now poised to announce the next phase of trials this week. The Daily Telegraph understands Royal Ascot is in line to be included, allowing the racecourse to dramatically increase on their current 4,000 limit next month. The opening European Championship matches at Wembley will also be listed in the next phase of the study. Including more games in the second phase means the FA could scale up numbers from 22,500 as the tournament progresses. Senior figures within sport and Whitehall are growing more optimistic that the national stadium will be 50 per cent full by the knock-out stages. However, a capacity crowd is deemed unlikely by sporting insiders before the final. On Tuesday, Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, hailed the “real success” of pilots so far. “I hope by June 21 we will be lighting up the West End again, having full stadiums and bringing light and Technicolor back into our national life again,” he told London’s Evening Standard newspaper. The pilot test results showed just four cases across 17 days of the World Snooker Championships, staged indoors at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. The majority of the infections in the overall trial numbers were caused by nine cases found among 6,000 revellers at a nightclub in Liverpool without masks. Mr Dowden said there was now a “laser like focus” on ending restrictions. Britain is the only country to have staged such detailed research into events. England’s Euro group games, including against Scotland, remain in line for 22,000 but the Wembley fixtures inclusion in phase two of pilots means the FA has some wiggle room to increase numbers around June 21. The inclusion of Wembley matches in the pilot scheme for the opening matches means England fans will have to produce a negative coronavirus test. Under government rules, no one attending sporting events since crowds returned on Monday last week has had to undergo testing. The pilot test success will also delight the Premier League, which has this week been stepping up its lobbying for digital Covid passports to ensure full stadiums next season. Bill Bush, the league’s director of policy, had told MPs on Monday that socially distanced crowds were “awful for sport” and that requiring fans to prove they were not infectious instead was the “lesser of two evils”. Boris Johnson is still considering a scheme under which the NHS app is converted to a digital Covid passport. As Telegraph Sport reported last week, Wimbledon is also among events growing increasingly confident that it can allow more spectators in this summer. Prof Robert Dingwall, a public health specialist at Nottingham Trent’s School of Social Sciences, had said a fortnight ago that the All England Club should in turn be planning for attendances of up to 70 per cent. “There is a broad scientific consensus that outdoors is as near zero risk as any scientist will ever commit to, unless spending any length of time in a very crowded space with restricted air movement,” he added.
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