Eight positive Covid-19 cases were recorded among the 30,000 people who attended the FA Cup semi-final, the FA Cup final and the Carabao Cup final, according to a new report.
A further six were recorded among more than 10,000 spectators who attended the 17 days of the World Snooker Championship, the report on the first phase of the Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) said.
In total 58,000 people attended sporting and cultural events in the first phase of the ERP in April and May, with 28 positive Covid-19 cases.
The report said 11 of these individuals were “potentially infectious at an event”, with a further 17 potentially infected at or around the time of the event.
The ERP is looking at ways to allow spectators to return to sports venues in significant numbers amid the pandemic, and a third phase will include the final four Euro 2020 matches at Wembley, Formula One’s British Grand Prix and Wimbledon.
The report highlights that large indoor events with high crowd density and proximity “may pose a higher potential risk of transmission as a result of close proximity and poor ventilation”.
Mitigations such as face coverings, ventilation, testing, restrictions on access to food and drink, social distancing and capacity caps all contributed to reducing that risk, the report said.
The first day of the World Snooker Championship on April 17 was the first event to welcome spectators in England since the tier system was scrapped at the end of December.
The following day, there were 2,800 ERP participants – made up of local residents and key workers – in attendance at the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton, and a week later 7,800 participants watched the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham.
The FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester on May 15 was attended by 21,000 participants.
The ERP report states there was low uptake of PCR testing before and after events, which meant it was “challenging to determine” whether direct transmission of coronavirus had occurred at the events.
Two days after the FA Cup final, sports venues across England were able to open, with larger outdoor seated venues able to allow in up to 10,000 spectators.
Sports clubs and governing bodies are keen to see what the Government will announce ahead of the scheduled final easing of restrictions on July 19, but the ERP report simply stated: “No decisions have been taken on the full reopening of mass events. The government will set out its position on this ahead of Step Four in the roadmap.”
Rules on wearing face coverings were better observed at indoor events, the report found, with 98.3 per cent in sample areas compared to 92.1 per cent at outdoor events, or events with a substantial outdoor element.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Our innovative and science-led Events Research Programme is helping us to better understand how the risk of transmission at major events can be effectively mitigated.
“The findings and learnings will help event organisers plan for large audiences as we move to Step Four of the roadmap.”
The second phase of the ERP was completed this month and included the Euro 2020 group matches at Wembley, Royal Ascot and the England v New Zealand Test match at Edgbaston.
The Government said there are “live discussions” about adding further events to the third phase of the ERP, where providing evidence of a negative test or full vaccination status will continue to be trialled.
The report found that, with the exception of the event at the Circus nightclub in Liverpool, a person attending an ERP event experienced a lower level of cumulative exposure than attending a well-ventilated multi-person office for six hours.
Evidence gathered from the three football matches found that bacterial cell counts on surfaces and in the air increased as crowd sizes increased.
The report found stewards at events helped spectators adhere to guidelines, with the exception of the FA Cup final, where their advice was deemed to be disruptive to spectators’ enjoyment of the event.