Footballers are encouraging young supporters to take their Covid shots in a bid to ensure the safe return of fans at full capacity this season.
The government plans allow crowds to return to football fields after social distancing rules are lifted on Monday.
However, there are concerns about low vaccine use among people aged 18 to 30, which could spread the virus at major sporting events in the coming months.
As a result, some clubs are stepping in to encourage fans to get vaccinated before the season starts in two weeks.
After Freedom Day, crowds can return to football matches and sporting events
“I haven’t hesitated to get my first jab and I’ll be getting my second as soon as possible,” Greg Taylor told Cambridge United fans in a video posted to the NHS’s local social media feed. “Let’s get out of this lockdown together.”
VACCINE FIT FOR FANS AND PLAYERS?
Premier League players and staff could face mandatory Covid-19 vaccination as part of a government plan to keep the sport going if there is a winter lockdown, writes Matt Hughes.
The government announced earlier this week that fans may need a vaccine pass to show their vaccination status in order to attend games with large crowds from Oct. 1 if the covid numbers rise, causing more deaths and pressure on hospitals.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing political backlash over his plans to force people to take a shot before they can enter venues.
However, Sports post has been informed that this directive would also apply to players and other match personnel. Twice a week testing and Covid-protected red zones in stadiums and training grounds have ensured that the Premier League has been running almost uninterrupted since its resumption after the initial lockdown in June 2020.
Under the new government guidelines, negative tests would no longer suffice for players. Top clubs were eager to avoid queuing for vaccinations, but many now face a race against time to ensure their players get two shots within the allotted eight weeks.
At a press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said not enough young people were taking up the offer of their first dose of vaccine, with 35 percent of 18-30-year-olds, three million people, still completely unvaccinated.
According to the latest figures, it will take until October to vaccinate all young people under the age of 30 with the current vaccination coverage.
Demand for the shot among young adults has plummeted by 80 percent while the rollout has slowed down at its slowest rate to date.
Just 18,100 young people under the age of 25 came forward in the past week to get their first dose, figures from NHS England show.
The situation has prompted the prime minister to suggest he will try to legislate for vaccine passports, which could make two shots a requirement to attend nightclubs, as well as major sporting events, such as top-level football matches.
But Cambridge United CEO Ian Mather hopes the players’ support for vaccinations will help increase acceptance among younger people in the local areas and bring fans back safely.
“It is important that as much of the population as possible is vaccinated to help limit the spread of the virus among players and fans,” he said. ‘We want to make it the safest possible environment.’
In Scotland, clubs are involved in a major campaign to encourage vaccination among young men following a major outbreak of Covid infection in Ross County, forcing the Highland side to miss a Scottish League Cup game against Forfar.
Concerned about the potential spread of Covid at major sporting events, the London government has issued guidance to organisers, including football, and encouraged them to take steps to reduce the risk of transmission.
This includes using the NHS app as a Covid passport confirming a two dose vaccination, a negative test result or natural immunity due to a previous infection.
Cambridge United have made the decision to encourage fans to get vaccinated before the new season to ensure players and supporters are safe when the full crowd returns. The club welcomed some fans in December, but hopes for 7,000 against Oxford
In addition, it is recommended to wear face masks in busy areas and the entrance times can be staggered to avoid bottlenecks.
However, the government has not defined what constitutes a major event. Earlier – in step three of the lockdown roadmap – this was described as a capacity of 16,000 or more. The cabinet secretary, Michael Gove, told a select committee of MPs in May that each threshold could be 20,000 fans.
But officials argue that some low-capacity stadiums with many bottlenecks may present risks that need to be mitigated, so they are hesitant to set hard and fast definitions.
The club will ask spectators to wear masks and be considerate of other fans during matches
The Premier League is in talks with clubs about implementing a consistent approach to Covid measures in the top flight, where all stadiums except Brentford have a capacity of over 20,000 and the Bees, in any case, would have no objection to any mitigations.
Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony has spoken out against vaccine passports
However, the situation is more complicated and unclear in the EFL, where capacity varies wildly from Sunderland, whose Stadium of Light can host 49,000, to Accrington Stanley in League One, where the Wham Stadium has just over 5,000.
As usual, clubs will have to agree competition capacities with the local Safety Advisory Group, which includes transport and public health officials and the emergency services.
Cambridge United have been given the green light to full capacity for two preseason friendlies against QPR and Northampton Town, although the club does not expect more than 2,000 fans to attend.
However, the club are hopeful that it will come close to a full house of 8,000 for their first League One game, after promotion last season, when they face Oxford United on 7 August.
“We are confident that we will be at full capacity for our first league game against Oxford,” said Mather, who will not be implementing Covid Passports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson could pass laws to ensure all fans who attend major sporting events in nightclubs are vaccinated, but there has been political backlash against plans
“We advise people to wear masks and we will have disinfectant and ask people to respect the distance from others where possible.”
Where there are free seats, fans can ask the stewards to move them if they want more space.
Meanwhile, the posh chairman, Darragh MacAnthony, has spoken out strongly against ‘vaccine passports’ along the road in Peterborough.
“We all know the data, science, risks, age groups and so on. Multiple vaccines are now available for those most at risk,” he said in a debate on Twitter last week.
‘Time to resume normalcy. Like other respiratory viruses, Covid is here to stay & [we] must learn to live with it in our society.”
He described Covid passports as an unfair burden on young people, saying: “These young people have sacrificed so much by [the] pandemic for ‘the vulnerable’ and now we are punishing them with this?”