Tottenham Hotspur are the first Premier League club to announce they will trial the NHS Covid passport ahead of the new season.
Spurs have told supporters that all adults will have to show a pass before entering the stadium ahead of their men’s and women’s teams playing Arsenal on Sunday August 8.
The Covid pass – generated by the NHS app – confirms a person has had two doses of vaccine, has obtained a negative test for the virus or has natural immunity stemming from a previous infection.
Tottenham Hotspur will trial Covid passports at their pre-season friendly against Arsenal
The move comes after Government issued advice for event organisers encouraging them to use ‘Covid passports’ where large crowds are in attendance, including at sports events.
However, while the Premier League is working on plans, it does not expect all clubs to have a Covid certification scheme in place by the first round of matches starting on August 13 and Spurs are the first to unveil its arrangements.
A number of top flight clubs spoken to by Sportsmail have no plans to use Covid certification in pre-season friendlies despite large attendances, and they are still awaiting advice on what is expected when the league matches begin.
Since July 19, when social distancing rules were relaxed as the country moved from step three to step four of the roadmap out of lockdown, there has been no legal limit on capacities.
‘Tottenham Hotspur will be trialling the use of the NHS COVID Pass to verify the vaccination or Covid status of supporters attending our Men’s and Women’s matches against Arsenal on Sunday 8 August,’ Spurs said in a statement on the club website.
Spurs are the first Premier League club to announce plans to trial the digital health checks
The club added: ‘All adult supporters attending the Arsenal double-header will be required to present their NHS COVID Pass, generated by the NHS App, on their mobile device as they enter the stadium to confirm they are either fully vaccinated or have received a negative COVID-19 test result within 48 hours of kick-off.
‘Please note, if you have not yet received both required COVID-19 jabs, you will be required to take either a PCR or rapid lateral flow test.
‘Passes will be checked by a steward between the initial ticket check at the bottom of the stairs leading to our podiums and ahead of arrival at our turnstiles.’
Last week, Sportsmail revealed that Government is developing plans to restrict attendance at Premier League football matches to spectators who have had two Covid jabs from October 1, should the prevalence and impact of the virus still be high.
In those circumstances, so-called ‘vaccine passports’ would be required to enter stadiums. These would not allow a supporter to self-test; they would have to be double jabbed.
Covid passports have been used in third phase of Government’s Events Research Programme
The Premier League is supportive of establishing plans for some form of passport if it enables clubs to maintain full capacity, even if Covid surges in the autumn and winter.
Spurs said their trial was part of preparations for October.
‘This follows recent government announcements and the necessity for the Club to begin preparations for the potential of full vaccination against Covid-19 being a condition of entry to large events from 1 October.’
‘It also further ensures the safety and comfort of our supporters, players and staff as we begin hosting capacity crowds for the first time since March, 2020,’ the club added.
Fans were asked to wear face masks when they returned to top flight matches last season
Covid passports formed an important part of phase three of the Government Events Research Programme. They were used as crowds of more than 60,000 returned to Wembley for the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final and at Wimbledon, where capacity crowds were allowed on Centre Courts and Number One Court during the second week of the Championships.
The checks did not cause significant disruption to crowd flows although some fans questioned the rigour of stewards checking the NHS Covid passes and highlighted the fact that where a negative test is required, spectators are self-certifying their result.
With the season rapidly approaching, clubs are at different points in the Covid preparations. Manchester United’s pre-season friendlies against Brentford and Everton will not use Covid certification, but the club is advising supporters to take a lateral flow test before attending and to wear a face mask.
Manchester United are working towards full capacity for their first league home game
‘Although the legal requirement to wear a face covering in England ended on 19 July, the government recommends that people continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces,’ the club said on its website.
United are ramping up their attendances towards full capacity – 75,000 – for their first home game against Leeds United.
The current situation is somewhat confused for sport. The Government has not formally defined what constitutes a large crowd and the guidance it has issued is not legally binding.
The definition of a large crowd in the road map out of lockdown was 16,000, but the Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove has previously indicated the threshold now could be 20,000.
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The Hundred cricket matches have taken place without Covid certification in the last week, albeit at attendances below 16,000. Glorious Goodwood began on Tuesday, with 20,000 fans attending the meeting and more than 100,000 expected over the five days.
Clubs in the Premier League and EFL have been given permission by their Local Safety Advisory Groups to operate at full capacity in friendlies, but in the top flight, at least, they are waiting on further instructions for league matches.
One Premier League insider told Sportsmail: ‘We want to see something pretty quickly. The first game is two weeks away. We do not know exactly what is needed.’
Clubs are putting home games on sale without knowing exactly what conditions to attach.
Meanwhile, there is also scepticism about the Government’s ability to force ‘vaccine passports’ on fans. The move would require legislation meaning the Prime Minister Boris Johnson would have to win a vote in Parliament in the face of opposition from his own MPs.
The Government has been concerned by low take-up rates of the vaccine among people under 30. Ministers may hope that threats to make attendance at nightclubs and some football matches dependent on vaccination will increase take up.
‘There is no doubt what the Government is trying to do is nudge more take up of the vaccine,’ said one well-placed source within the game. ‘They are saying go and get the vaccine now.’