Plans to ban unvaccinated fans from attending football matches branded 'disgraceful'

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File photo dated 09-01-2021 of the Premier League logo displayed on a mobile phone with a Coronavirus illustration on a monitor in the background. Issue date: Monday September 6, 2021. PA Photo. Two individuals connected to Premier League clubs have tested positive for Covid-19 in last week's testing, the lowest number recorded so far this season - PA
File photo dated 09-01-2021 of the Premier League logo displayed on a mobile phone with a Coronavirus illustration on a monitor in the background. Issue date: Monday September 6, 2021. PA Photo. Two individuals connected to Premier League clubs have tested positive for Covid-19 in last week's testing, the lowest number recorded so far this season - PA

Plans to ban those who refuse to be vaccinated against coronavirus from attending football matches and other major sporting events were on Wednesday branded “disgraceful” amid accusations it would make scant difference to the spread of the disease.

The Government came under fire for “forcing” jabs on fans after confirming it would introduce mandatory vaccine passports for nightclubs and other large events in England if there was a surge in those being hospitalised with Covid-19.

Under the policy, any adult refusing to be double-jabbed – barring those who cannot be for medical reasons – would be banned from sporting events with crowds of 10,000 or more, dropping to 500 or more for indoor events.

The Government also said vaccine passports could be rolled out at as little as a week’s notice, leaving those not already inoculated unable to get both doses in time to gain entry to such events.

Football had been hoping those who submitted a negative result when taking a lateral flow test and those deemed to have natural immunity after recovering from the virus would be exempt from any fan ban.

But the Government confirmed the existing NHS Covid Pass used to record this would change to display full vaccinations only if “Plan B” of its ‘Covid-19 response: autumn and winter plan’ came into force.

One chief executive of a Championship club told Telegraph Sport: “What is this about? Because it’s not about testing. It’s not about making sure people going into grounds aren’t carrying the virus. This is about forcing people to have vaccinations and it’s wrong. It is wrong. Whichever way you look at that, it is wrong.

“It’s not about making sure everyone’s safe. It’s about making sure people get vaccinated and impinging on people’s lifestyles if they’re not vaccinated. And they’re putting that on industries where they’ve not provided any financial support.

“Football had no financial support. Yet, we’ve be put upon to deliver a vaccination programme for the Government again. It’s disgraceful. And I’m 100 per cent for vaccinations. But, if you’re going to do this, you should be saying double-vaccinated or lateral flow.”

NHS Covid Pass and Negative Covid test advice is seen on a banner outside the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford at American Express Community Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Brighton, England - GETTY IMAGES
NHS Covid Pass and Negative Covid test advice is seen on a banner outside the stadium prior to the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford at American Express Community Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Brighton, England - GETTY IMAGES

Steve Brine MP, a Conservative member of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee and former Government minister, said: “We know the vaccine doesn’t stop transmission, so it’s still hard to see what exam question passports are the answer to.”

Darragh MacAnthony, the owner of Peterborough United, has also previously branded vaccine passports “a disgrace”, accusing them of “punishing” the young.

Full details of exactly how vaccine passports would work in sport had yet to be made public on Wednesday night but Telegraph Sport has been told the Government is unlikely to insist every match-going football fan’s NHS Covid Pass is checked.

That is because doing so could dramatically increase the time taken for supporters to enter grounds, compounding the risk of the virus spreading and of crowd disorder.

Ministers could therefore follow their Scottish counterparts by agreeing that random spot checks would be sufficient to deter the unvaccinated from attending.

The 10,000 threshold will also force clubs with attendances that only sometimes exceed that figure to choose whether to bring in spot checks or cap capacity at 9,999.

The chief executive of the Championship club said the cost of introducing checks would be negligible compared to lost gate receipts from such a cap and urged the English Football League simply to roll them out across the board.

A spokesman for the Government – which has provided some financial support to elite football during the pandemic – said: “We make no apologies for saying that getting the Covid-19 vaccine is the best way out of this pandemic, but as the Prime Minister has said, we do not see the need to proceed with mandatory certification this month.

“We are working closely with organisers of mass events to encourage the voluntary use of certification and the NHS Covid Pass, to demonstrate either a negative test or proof of vaccination, in order to ensure their events can run as safely as possible and at full capacity.”

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