Footballers are encouraging young supporters to have their Covid jabs in an effort to secure the safe return of fans at full capacities this season.
Under Government plans, capacity crowds can return to football grounds after social distancing rules were lifted on Monday.
However, there is concern over the low take-up of vaccines among people aged 18 to 30, which could allow the virus to spread at large sporting events in the months ahead.
As a result, some clubs are stepping in to encourage fans to be vaccinated before the season starts in two weeks.
Capacity crowds can return to football matches and sports events following Freedom Day
‘I didn’t hesitate to have my first jab and I’ll be having my second one as soon as I can,’ Greg Taylor told Cambridge United fans in a video posted on the local NHS social media feed. ‘Let’s get out of this lockdown together.’
VACCINE PASSES FOR FANS AND PLAYERS?
Premier League players and staff could face compulsory vaccination against Covid-19 as part of a Government plan to keep sport going if there is a winter lockdown, writes Matt Hughes.
The Government announced earlier this week that fans may require a vaccine pass showing their vaccination status to attend matches with large crowds from October 1, if Covid rates rise causing increased deaths and placing pressure on hospitals.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a political backlash over his plans to force people to have jabs before they can enter venues.
However, Sportsmail has learned that this guidance would also apply to players and other match-day personnel. Testing twice a week and Covid-secure red zones at stadiums and training grounds have kept the Premier League going almost without interruption since its resumption after the first lockdown in June 2020.
Under the Government’s new guidance, negative tests would no longer be enough for players. Top-flight clubs were anxious to avoid being seen to jump the queue for vaccinations, but many now face a race against time to ensure their players receive two jabs within the stipulated eight-week window.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said not enough young people were taking up the offer of their first dose of vaccine, with 35 per cent of those aged 18-30, three million people, still completely unvaccinated.
It will take until October to vaccinate all under-30s under current vaccination rates, the latest figures have revealed.
Demand for the jab among young adults has plummeted by 80 per cent as the rollout has slumped to its slowest pace yet.
Just 18,100 under-25s a day have come forward to get their first dose in the past week, NHS England figures show.
The situation has prompted the PM to suggest he will attempt to legislate for vaccine passports, which could make two jabs a requirement in order to attend nightclubs, but also large sporting events, such as top flight football matches.
But Cambridge United chief executive, Ian Mather, hopes the players’ support for vaccinations will help bump up take-up among younger peope in local areas and bring fans back safely.
‘It’s important for as many of the population as possible to be vaccinated to help restrict the spread of the virus among players and fans,’ he said. ‘We want to make this as safe an environment as we can.’
In Scotland, clubs have been included in a major drive to encourage vaccination among young men after a large outbreak of Covid infection at Ross County, which forced the Highland side to forfeit a Scottish League Cup match against Forfar.
Concerned about the potential spread of Covid at large sporting events, the Government in London has issued guidance to organisers, including football, encouraging them to take steps to reduce the risk of transmission.
This includes the using the NHS app as a Covid Passport that confirms a two-dose vaccination, a negative test result or natural immunity stemming from a previous infection.
Cambridge United have taken the decision to encourage fans to have vaccines ahead of the new season in a bid to ensure players and supporters are safe when full crowds return. The club welcomed back some fans in December but hope for 7,000 against Oxford
In addition, it is suggested face masks should be worn in congested areas and entry times could be staggered to avoid bottlenecks.
However, government has not defined what constitutes a large event. Previously – in step three of the roadmap out of lockdown – 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 any threshold could be 20,000 fans.
But officials argue that some stadiums with low capacity, but lots of pinch points, may present risks that should be mitigated and so are reluctant to set hard and fast definitions.
The club will ask spectators to wear masks and be considerate of other fans at games
The Premier League is in discussion with clubs over the implementation of a consistent approach to Covid measures in the top flight, where all stadiums except Brentford are above 20,000 capacity and regardless, the Bees would not object 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 capacities vary hugely from Sunderland, whose Stadium of Light, can accommodate 49,000 to Accrington Stanley in League One, where the Wham Stadium holds just over 5,000.
As usual, clubs will have to agree capacities for matches with the local Safety Advisory Group, which is made up of transport and public health officials and the emergency services, among others.
Cambridge United have been given the go ahead for full capacity for two preseason friendlies against QPR and Northampton Town, although the club does not expect many over 2,000 fans to attend.
However, the club is hopeful it will come close to a full house of 8,000 for their first League One fixture, following promotion last season, when they take on Oxford United on August 7.
‘We are working on the basis that for our first league game against Oxford we will be at full capacity,’ said Mather, who will not be implementing Covid Passports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson could legislate to ensure all fans attending nightclubs large sporting events are vaccinated, however there has been a political backlash against plans
‘We are recommending people to wear masks and we will have sanitiser and asking people to respect other people’s distance where possible.’
Where there are spare seats, fans will be able to ask stewards to move them if they want more space.
Meanwhile, down the road in Peterborough, the Posh chairman, Darragh MacAnthony , has spoken out strongly against ‘vaccine passports.
“We all know the data, science, risks, age groups and so on. Multiple vaccines now available for those most at risk,’ he said in a debate on Twitter last week.
‘Time for normality to resume. Covid like other respiratory viruses is here to stay & [we] have to learn to live with it in our society.”
Describing Covid passports as an unfair burden on the young, he said: “These young people have sacrificed so much through [the] pandemic for ‘the vulnerable’ and now we punish them with this?”