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Fans at Premier League matches may now need a Covid passport from the first round of matches

Fans attending Premier League football matches may need a Covid Passport to gain entry to stadiums from the first round of matches in mid-August.

The Government is expected to ‘encourage’ the use of Covid certification for large crowds and in some settings, masks, too, but will not mandate either.

However, it is highly unlikely any sport would ignore Government guidance on this matter given the risk and consequences of a Covid outbreak.

The development of new guidance follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging the use of Covid passports amid renewed fears that big crowds could accelerate the spread of coronavirus after Freedom Day on July 19.

Covid passports have been tested at Wembley during the latter stages of Euro 2020

The Government is set to lift all legal restrictions on social distancing from Monday as the country moves from Step Three to Step Four of the roadmap out of lockdown.

Sources in sport say they are braced for the further guidance this week on what this will mean for them.

For Premier League football, it now looks increasingly likely that Government will hope to see a certification scheme in place from the first match, which is Brentford versus Arsenal on Friday August 13, ahead of a full round of fixtures.

Covid certification uses the NHS app, which can confirm if a person has received two doses of the vaccine, has a negative lateral flow test or has natural immunity to the virus from a previous infection.

Ministers are mindful that not all sports will be in a position to implement Covid Passports from Monday and it ‘is not the flick of a switch on the 19th and everyone is ready’, according to a Whitehall source, who added: ‘There will be gradual encouragement to roll it out.’

The checking of Covid Passports was criticised by fans who said stewards were easily duped

But Government thinks a system could be ready for implementation at the start of the next Premier League season. The top flight has been working towards a scheme for some time and is understood to be exploring early implementation.

Latitude may be given to lower league clubs, which could be granted more time to prepare for the introduction of Covid certification, Sportsmail understands.

Previously, the Cabinet Secretary, Michael Gove, told MPs that if implemented, Covid passports could be used for capacities at football stadiums above 20,000. This would include all Premier League grounds and a significant number in the EFL.

The Premier League, a long with other sports, has been clear that it considers Covid passports will be required at some point during the season in order to main large crowds if infection rates rise in the autumn or winter.

Premier League football crowds will return from August 13 with huge stadiums, such as Old Trafford, hosting around 70,000 fans, more than any of the summer test events

However, the idea of using Covid passports as a fall-back option now appears to have been overtaken by a desire to see them in place from week one as Britain is gripped by a third wave of coronavirus infection, driven by the Delta variant.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed on Monday night that people must exercise ‘extreme caution’ when legal restrictions on social distancing are scrapped from July 19.

The PM said venues with large crowds would be urged to adopt Covid certification ‘as a matter of social responsibility’.

He said relevant businesses should ‘make use’ of the NHS Covid app, which shows proof of double vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity, as ‘a means of entry’.

Covid Passports are currently being tested as part of Phase Three of the Government’s Events Research Programme.

But supporters attending Euro 2020 matches at Wembley and the Wimbledon tennis championships have highlighted flaws in the system, which involves a cursory check of the app or a test result by a steward.

The scheme has been designed by Government and its scientific advisors, not the venues. 

There has been concern that stewards could be easily duped by spectators  using a screen shot of someone else’s app or indeed, any QR code, since the it is not scanned to ensure it is genuine or cross-referenced with a ticket to be certain the person entering the venue is the ticket holder.

‘No QR code readers at Wembley,’ tweeted Nottingham Forest fan, Martyn Scott. ‘The steward just asked me if [the QR code] meant I’d had two vaccinations. I said yes. He said go through. I could have used a free pizza code.’

The Premier League has been looking at how it could integrate scanning the NHS app QR code with checking tickets at the turnstiles, but it is unclear whether an adequate solution has been found or could be implemented within four weeks.

Guidance is also expected to clarify the use of masks at sporting events. Reports suggest masks will be required at large sporting events from July 19.

“Through guidance, we will be encouraging the use of masks. Certainly, an event organiser can put it as a condition of entry.” A Whitehall source told the Telegraph.

However, Sportsmail understands the Government is yet to finalise its position on masks or decide how prescriptive it will be.

Last season, supporters in the Premier League and EFL were not required to wear masks while sat in their seats outdoors but did so when inside and entering and leaving the stadium, under rules set out by the Sports Ground Safety Authority.

At the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday similar rules were in place but almost universally ignored.

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