The future of sport as we know it hinges on getting fans back into stadia. This is especially true in Ireland where the IRFU, FAI and GAA rely to a very high level on the income generated by matchday ticketing and revenue.

Each week we will take a look at developments around the world on where sporting organisations, public health authorities and governments are moving in the return to stadia.



Spectators will start to return to stadia in England from May 17th as part of a new roadmap for emerging from lockdown announced in Westminster yesterday.

It will be phased but with the speed we have grown used to it looks like a breakneck pace.

If the level of incidence and vaccination proceed as planned, it is targetted that a full capacity will be possible by June 21st, in time for the final stages of the European Championship Finals, Wimbledon, Royal Ascot and possibly even a restaged British and Irish Lions hosting of South Africa.

The return of outdoor amateur and children’s sport will take place in the first phases of the easing of restrictions from march 29th and April 12th, as we have covered elsewhere.

The return of fans is planned for the third stage of the plan on May 17th.

At this point, there will also be a difference between venues that can host more or less than 40,000 fans.

Below that number, there will be a 50 per cent capacity or a maximum of 4,000 fans in an outdoor setting or 1,000 in an indoor environment.

Above it, which will take in many of the major sporting events of the summer, the restriction between May 17th and June 21st will be 25 per cent or 10,000, whichever is lower.

There will be test events staged in advance, which will probably include the FA Cup Final on May 15th.

All this presents a clear roadmap that sport can plan for at both grassroots and elite level.

It has been enabled by a faster rollout of vaccines than we have been able to manage in Ireland, but that gap will close. We may not have the same dates as targets but at least now there is a playbook on a return, and lessons to be learned suggesting that 2021 will see a meaningful return of sport at all levels and with fans.

Team sports in New York where games are played in venues with at least a 10,000 capacity, will from today be allowed to have ten per cent of their fans in the arena.

There will be a number of elements that will make it different, including the requirement for a negative test within 72 hours, the wearing of masks and socially distant seating.

“Live sports and entertainment have long been engrained in the fabric of New York and the inability to hold events has only added to the isolation we have all felt at the hands of the virus,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Thankfully, our pilot program to reopen Buffalo Bills games to fans was an unparalleled success and we are now taking that model and expanding it to other large venues across the state to not only reinvigorate local economies but also help bring some fun and joy back into people’s lives as safely as possible.”

That’s a sentiment we can only applaud.


Sport for Business will host an online session for Members and guests towards the end of April looking at the different approaches to allowing fans back into grounds across Europe and around the world and also exploring where Ireland is at that point in the easing of restrictions.

Watch out for details over the coming weeks but please feel free to get in touch if you would like to be involved in this event.

Sport for Business Partners