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21,000 fans watch FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester at Wembley in latest pilot sports event

Delighted fans flocked back to Wembley on Saturday with over 20,000 set to watch the FA Cup final between Leicester City and Chelsea. 

English football’s showpiece occasion is the latest of a series of Government pilot events to return fans to sporting events as the United Kingdom continues to follow its roadmap out of lockdown.

The Duke of Cambridge will be one of 21,000 in attendance at the national stadium, including 6,250 supporters of each team. 

Fans who’d travelled to support Leicester made up most of the early arrivals on Wembley Way, braving rain showers to soak up the atmosphere. 

The remainder of the crowd will consist of residents from the Brent area that surrounds Wembley, invited key workers and Football Association guests.

Everyone attending was required to return a negative lateral flow Covid-19 test before travelling to the stadium. Proof of this had to be provided by email or text message to gain entry to Wembley. 

Young Leicester fans Rocco and Charlie Vine were among the early arrivals at Wembley ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final

Leicester supporters Gurmukh Singh and his nephew Arjun Singh make the walks along Wembley Way towards the stadium

Leicester supporters Gurmukh Singh and his nephew Arjun Singh make the walks along Wembley Way towards the stadium

Leicester fans Mark, John and Jayden were among the lucky ticket-holders and came armed with the traditional tinfoil FA Cup

Leicester fans Mark, John and Jayden were among the lucky ticket-holders and came armed with the traditional tinfoil FA Cup 

These Leicester City fans arrived at Wembley early and braved the rain showers as they got ready for the FA Cup final

These Leicester City fans arrived at Wembley early and braved the rain showers as they got ready for the FA Cup final

Leicester have reached four FA Cup finals in the past - the last time coming back in 1969 - but have never won the competition

Leicester have reached four FA Cup finals in the past – the last time coming back in 1969 – but have never won the competition 

Seats are disinfected at Wembley Stadium a day ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester City

Seats are disinfected at Wembley Stadium a day ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester City 

Surfaces in the press box at Wembley Stadium are wiped down with disinfectant ahead of Saturday's showpiece final

Surfaces in the press box at Wembley Stadium are wiped down with disinfectant ahead of Saturday’s showpiece final

The final will see Wembley at just under a quarter of its 90,000-capacity despite mounting fears that the Indian Covid variant could push back the planned exit from restrictions in England on June 21.

Government scientists warned on Friday night that the new strain is ‘realistically’ 50 per cent more infectious than the Kent strain.

They said that if the Indian strain took hold, there could be 10,000 more people hospitalised per day by the Autumn and the possibility of 1,000 deaths per day by summer.

Scientists believe vaccines are less effective against the variant and the rapid spread of the virus among younger people could out-pace the successful programme of vaccination across the UK.

A Warwick University model of a more infectious variant after lockdown is completely lifted on June 21 suggests that any more than a 30 per cent increase in transmissibility compared to the Kent variant could lead to an August peak of daily hospital admissions that is higher than either the first or second wave. In a worst-case scenario with a variant 50 per cent more transmissible, hospital admissions could surge to 10,000 per day or even double that  (Thick lines indicate the central estimate while the thin lines are possible upper limits known as confidence intervals)

The LSHTM team suggested that there will be 1,000 deaths per day in August if the variant is 50 per cent more transmissible - which would be less than the 1,900 seen at the peak this January

The LSHTM team suggested that there will be 1,000 deaths per day in August if the variant is 50 per cent more transmissible – which would be less than the 1,900 seen at the peak this January

Britons queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at the Essa academy temporary vaccination centre in Bolton

Britons queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at the Essa academy temporary vaccination centre in Bolton

Graphs showing the falling rate of Covid-19 deaths, hospitalisations and positive cases across the United Kingdom

Graphs showing the falling rate of Covid-19 deaths, hospitalisations and positive cases across the United Kingdom

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to ‘throw everything we have at this task’ and will send the Army into the worst variant hotspots to hand out tests in an effort to slow the spread.

That news did little to dampen the enthusiasm of those lucky supporters able to watch their team in the Cup final at Wembley.

The two clubs allocated the tickets to season ticket holders based on the number of away matches they had attended in the past.

It is the largest crowd seen at a pilot event to date. 8,000 fans attended the Carabao Cup final between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Wembley last month.

The FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton saw 4,000 inside Wembley.

A picture of the 2,000 Manchester City supporters celebrating their win over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup final last month

A picture of the 2,000 Manchester City supporters celebrating their win over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup final last month

A crowd of 8,000 spectators attended the Carabao Cup final on April 25 as part of the Government's pilot events programme

A crowd of 8,000 spectators attended the Carabao Cup final on April 25 as part of the Government’s pilot events programme

The final two sessions of the World Snooker Championship earlier this month saw a full house of 980 at the Crucible

The final two sessions of the World Snooker Championship earlier this month saw a full house of 980 at the Crucible 

The recent World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield also saw spectators at every session over the course of 17 days. There was a sell-out crowd for the two sessions of the final on May 3, with 980 mask-wearing fans inside the arena.

With the latest easing of restrictions set for Monday, there will also be limited numbers of home fans at the remaining Premier League fixtures in the next fortnight and also the EFL Play-offs.

It came as thousands of Rangers fans defied Covid rules to greet their team at Ibrox as they received the Scottish Premiership trophy following their match against Aberdeen.

Both the club and the Scottish Government urged fans to keep away but these requests were ignored.

Rangers fans gathered in their thousands to celebrate their side receiving the Scottish Premier League trophy on Saturday

Rangers fans gathered in their thousands to celebrate their side receiving the Scottish Premier League trophy on Saturday

The Gers fans gave their team a heroes' welcome when they arrived on the team bus for the final game of the season

The Gers fans gave their team a heroes’ welcome when they arrived on the team bus for the final game of the season

Rangers released a statement on Friday calling for fans to respect the lockdown rules in place - but this was ignored

Rangers released a statement on Friday calling for fans to respect the lockdown rules in place – but this was ignored

The celebrations come a day after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that Glasgow would be remaining in the highest restrictions bracket along with Moray due to concerns from the Indian coronavirus variant.

Positive cases in the Glasgow area rose up to 3.5 per cent on Friday, with research suggesting the Indian strain of the virus is contributing to these spike in cases. The rest of Scotland will be moving to level 2 from May 17.

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