POLITICS
08/04/2021 22:00 BST

Major Sports Back Vaccine Passports As Pressure Mounts On Boris Johnson

Premier League signs joint statement on Covid certificates but PM faces battle in parliament over the move.

Zac GoodwinPA
Leagues back vaccine passports

Boris Johnson is under fresh pressure to back Covid vaccine passports after big sport bodies backed the controversial checks to speed up the return of full-capacity matches. 

The letter to all party leaders suggested domestic Covid-status certificates, alongside testing, would be acceptable in order for matches to go ahead without social distancing this summer. 

The statement from the Football Association, Premier League, Rugby Football Union and England and Wales Cricket Board, among others, called on government to offer “certainty as soon as possible” on any new guidance. 

But the groups, which include Silverstone and the Lawn Tennis Association, caution that current social distancing rules will be “insufficient to end sport’s Covid financial crisis”. 

An interim government report on Monday said Covid certificates were “likely to become a feature of our lives” and could “potentially” be used to access nightclubs, festivals and sport events.

It is not yet clear whether social distancing can end on June 21 as planned, despite the jabs rollout staying on course, amid fears new variants could upend the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. 

The prime minister has yet to throw his weight behind a domestic passport scheme – which may be different to checks on international travel – but a full review into new guidance is under way. He has said it was right to “look at all possibilities”. 

The Commons could jettison domestic passports, however, as Labour, the SNP and a string of Tory backbenchers look set to vote against. 

MPs fear checks intrude on civil liberties, could see people denied entry to shops and pubs, and that bosses may use them to discriminate against workers. 

However, the intervention by major sport organisations could force change, as it underlines the frustration of millions of fans denied the chance of a live game since March. 

Bradley CollyerPA
Match action in front of empty stands during the Sky Bet Championship match at St. Andrew's Trillion Trophy Stadium, Birmingham.

The statement said the certificate scheme should not risk discrimination and that a testing programme may also help. 

It adds: “There are many issues to be addressed including how the technology would work and its ease of use at major events, for both the attendees and the organisers.

“All of our sports can see the benefit that a Covid certification process offers in getting more fans safely back to their sport as quickly as possible.

“We know that our stadia can only be fully filled with an assurance process. This process must ensure that everyone can access stadia and must include arrangements that would verify a negative Covid test or an anti-body test alongside vaccination certification.

“The final approach must not be discriminatory, should protect privacy, and have clear exit criteria.” 

It also cautions power-holders that big events were planned from June onwards and “it is important that we have certainty as soon as possible” on any new guidance. 

It adds: “The return of fans will give a huge boost to millions who enjoy a day out at a sporting event with their friends and families and be of great benefit to the economy.” 

A government spokesperson said: “We welcome the constructive approach from major British sports as we explore how testing Covid certification and other steps can help get more fans back into stadiums and other large events safely.

“We want as many fans as possible to be able to enjoy a great British summer of sport, safely.”