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One FA Cup semi-final to be used as test event for return of crowds, with 4,000 people set to attend

One of next month’s FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley will be used as part of the pilot events trialling the return of crowds to UK venues.

Chelsea and Manchester City meet on Saturday, April 17, with Leicester vs Southampton the following day.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has told the BBC that one of the games will be part of the trial programme. Although he did not clarify how many people will be able to attend, an FA source told Reuters that one of the matches will have an attendance capped at around 4,000, with the crowd being made up of local residents and care and support workers.

It is expected that a limited number of fans could return to stadiums after May 17 as part of the government’s plans to ease lockdown restrictions.

While that date would rule out fans at the FA Cup final on May 15, that match may also be part of the testing and could reportedly see 20,000 supporters at Wembley.

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When the restrictions on crowds are lifted they will initially allow 10,000 people or 25 per cent of the capacity, whichever is lower, to return to outdoor stadiums.

The World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, which starts on April 17 and is live on Eurosport, is also part of the testing along with potentially the Carabao Cup final on April 25 between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.

“We want to get as many people back as safely as possible,” Dowden told the BBC.

“We want to make it as simple and convenient as possible for people. That’s why we are conducting these pilots. The plan is to look at factors like one-way systems, ventilation within a stadium and how you interact in terms of getting to and from the venue.”

Dowden added that more pilot events will be announced later this week.

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The current plan regarding Covid-19 guidelines is for all restrictions to be lifted on June 21.

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“The purpose of this is not so much the overall number, it is how they interact with each other,” Dowden added.

“So it’s the social distancing that they have from each other. It’s the behavioural factors. We will be testing them before and after to look at spread and look how they behave in the stadium.

“We’re not just chucking everyone into the stadiums, it is being done in a very controlled way and the purpose is to get the rules set can so it can be as safe as possible from the June 21.”

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