England cricket Test match and Royal Ascot to be next fan pilots

By Laura ScottBBC Sport
Haydock Park racecourse
Racecourses are currently limited to 4,000 spectators due to Covid restrictions

An England cricket Test match and horse racing's Royal Ascot are among the next pilot events to test the return of big crowds to sports venues.

The second Test of the men's series against New Zealand, beginning on 10 June at Edgbaston, will be allowed to have more than 18,000 fans each day.

And Royal Ascot, which runs from 15-19 June, will be permitted to host 12,000 spectators each day.

That is more than double what the race meeting had been expecting.

England's first two group games in Euro 2020 will also be part of the next stage of the pilot project, as has already been reported, with 20,000 fans permitted at Wembley.

Current government guidance is that up to 10,000 spectators, but no more than 25% of capacity, are allowed in stadiums while for non-seated outdoor venues like racecourses there is a current cap of 4,000.

Edgbaston, the home of Warwickshire, has a capacity of 25,000 while Ascot can hold up to 70,000 people.

All ticket holders for Edgbaston must be 16 or over and will need to present a negative NHS lateral flow test taken within the preceding 24 hours.

"Having crowds back into cricket grounds is so important for the game and for our fans too," said England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison.

"The last 15 months have shown just how big a role cricket plays in many people's lives, and we cannot wait to welcome a growing number of fans back to our stadia over the coming months."

Warwickshire chief executive Stuart Cain said: "Edgbaston is unique as a cricket venue in having such a large stadium footprint, but we also have a vastly experienced operational delivery team, which has hosted many major events and a spectator pilot last summer.

"We have always been hopeful of featuring in the pilot programme and are delighted for the thousands of ticket holders who will now be able to attend."

A statement from Royal Ascot, which was held behind closed doors last year, said the requirements for visitors to the racecourse "remains work in progress".

All those who rolled over their 2020 bookings can now attend and an allocation of Royal Enclosure badges and Queen Anne (general admission) tickets will go on sale on Friday.

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington said it was "an opportunity to demonstrate how racing events are perfectly suited to safely hosting spectators in greater numbers".

Spectators have been allowed back in stadiums in reduced numbers since the latest phase of lockdown easing on 17 May.

In the Premier League, clubs were allowed up to 10,000 supporters inside grounds for the last two rounds of matches.

The previous round of pilot events for larger crowds has been considered a success by government, with 15 positive Covid cases recorded from a range of events that involved more than 58,000 people in April and May.

There were about 20,000 fans at the FA Cup final at Wembley, while the World Snooker Championship final was the first sporting event for more than a year to have a capacity crowd on 3 May.

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