English football club beats government Covid rules by reducing stadium capacity

English side Carlisle United have announced they are working around mandatory Covid rules set by the UK government for any crowd of 10,000 people or more – by reducing their stadium capacity to 9,999.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government announced further restrictions, called ‘Plan-B’, designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 after a significant uptick in cases since the strain was first discovered in southern Africa in November, with MPs passing legislation which mandate that Covid certification should be checked in some areas of England from Wednesday.

The strengthening of restrictions has proved unpopular among large swathes of the country, with Johnson even being forced to fight off a revolt from dozens of backbencher Tories who voted against the move. 

The restrictions are poised to hit football grounds across the country – but one team who have signaled that they won’t be required to comply is EFL side Carlisle United, who revealed that they have reduced their stadium capacity from 17,949 to 9,999 as long as the system is in place.

This essentially means that any fans who attend games at their Brunton Park ground won’t be required to show proof of vaccination to gain entry as part of a move that will limit capacity to 6,000 seats and 3,999 standing fans.

By contrast, all venues with a capacity of 10,000 or more are forced by the legislation to require football fans to either present a valid NHS Covid pass which displays a negative lateral flow test from the previous 48 hours or proof of full vaccination.

It has also been suggested that the terms for ‘full vaccination’ may soon be amended to include a ‘booster’, or third shot of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Carlisle chiefs also revealed that the wearing of facemasks will not be mandatory in the seats and on the terraces but will be required in sections of the stadium which are indoors, including toilets.

“The club can confirm there will be no mandatory Covid certification at Brunton Park at this time,” the club said in a statement.

“At this point, all areas… are planned to remain open. At these levels of expected attendance, there will be no mandatory Covid certification required at Brunton Park under ‘Plan-B’.

“There will be no requirement to show vaccination status or a recent negative test to enter the stadium and come to games. Supporters will not be required to wear a face covering when located in their seat, or on the terrace, in the stadium bowl.

“All supporters aged 11 and over will be legally required to wear a face covering when located in all indoor areas of the stadium, other than when eating or drinking, or where exempt.”

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Carlisle’s decision to institute a workaround to Johnson’s ‘Plan-B’ comes after the Premier League reported a record total of 42 positive Covid tests for the past week.

Manchester United’s trip to Brentford and Tottenham’s visit to Brighton were both called off because of Covid outbreaks at the clubs.

It should also be noted that Carlisle haven’t had an attendance this season of more than 8,000. The new plans will ensure that supporters won’t be required to conform to the policies being adopted by the majority of their peers in the English football pyramid. 

Carlisle added: “As a club, we have maintained the basic principles of dealing with Covid-19 which were initially introduced in March 2019, and which have been updated and modified regularly since.

“The football department operates in Red Zones both on matchdays and throughout the week, with access to those zones restricted to essential visits only for non-football staff and contractors.

“Players are on a regular cycle of lateral flow tests and are under the close supervision of the club’s medical staff for advice, should they have any concerns.

“The vaccination status of individuals is monitored, with seating and rooming lists compiled accordingly for away trips.”

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