13 September 2021 — Big Brother Watch
My name is Leon* and I work in the public sector. I would like to share my experience surrounding the use of Covid passports for entering sports venues, in particular Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Leicester City on 15th May 2021.
When Leicester got through to the Cup Final, I was overjoyed as it’s never happened in my lifetime. However, that was soon met with concern as it was still somewhat undecided what was happening with fans due to the coronavirus pandemic. Were fans going to be allowed to attend? What would the capacity be? Would there be a requirement for some kind of Covid passport?
Ticket details were soon released and upon first glance it almost didn’t seem worth all the hassle to go to Wembley.
Leicester and Chelsea were both given just over 6,000 tickets each, with the remaining tickets for the 21,000 crowd going to NHS staff and people who lived in Brent (free of charge for them!).
The government test scheme laid out its plans:
• A Lateral Flow Test (LFT) at an official test centre was required after 2pm on Thursday 13th May and ID would be needed at Wembley to prove it was you who was tested.
• Leicester fans would be required to use club transport at a cost of £45 and fans would be required to wear a face mask for the journey and sit in single seats, even if you were in the same ‘bubble’.
• A PCR test should be completed on the day and 5 days after the match (not mandatory). These were sent to the ticket holders’ houses.
I almost felt like giving up before I even started, as it just didn’t seem worth it. I then realised that as I didn’t live in the Leicestershire postcode area, I was able to make my own way to Wembley, which changed matters somewhat, as I was saving money not having to pay the coach fee.
I got tickets for my daughter and I with relative ease as I am a top priority season ticket holder. So the first hurdle was overcome. We couldn’t however have seats next to each other in the Stadium, so we had to have different rows, one behind the other. The next hurdle was the LFT.
I booked a local test centre for my daughter and I to attend. We both went on the day before the Cup Final and within 1 hour we had both received a negative test result, so the second hurdle was cleared.
It was at this point I noticed the whole system was completely flawed and pointless. The text message we both received was exactly the same as the text message you would get if you opened a LFT at home, scanned the QR code and registered the result on the GOV website. (Without even necessarily needing to stick a swab up your nose). Nonetheless, we were both clear to attend.
Upon arrival at Wembley, the atmosphere was superb outside. It was almost normal. No masks, fans gathering together and having a great time singing and partying, just enjoying the occasion. Nobody cared what your vaccine status was, or if you’d had a test, fans were just glad to be back.
The time had come to enter the stadium. We approached the turnstiles where there was a member of security to check your text message from the LFT. They took a quick glance, presumably at the date and time and allowed us entry. No ID check, they didn’t even ask our name or check the tickets at this point.
As we got to the turnstiles to enter, they checked our tickets and made sure we had a face mask on and that was it. We were in. Once inside I took the mask off as it was pretty pointless wearing it, particularly when the game started.
Ultimately, it was a fantastic day as a Leicester fan as we won the FA Cup for the first time in our history, but the whole experience was far from pleasant and I do not believe it was necessary.
I never bothered with the PCR tests, they went in the bin. I’m not ill and do not see why I should be testing myself.
As a result of the process I could foresee the delayed Euro 2020 tournament being another rigmarole to get to, if not even more stringent. I had tickets for the England v Scotland game and tickets for a game later in the tournament that would have been Italy v Austria. I just couldn’t bring myself to jump through the same hoops for what was going to be a stadium a quarter full and a sub par experience, so I returned my tickets for a refund.
I do not agree with any form of vaccine or Covid passport to get into any venue and I fear that the whole process will return for the 21/22 Premier League season. If the Government mandate it, or the Premier League implement it, then my seats at the King Power stadium will remain empty for the foreseeable future. It is just not a pleasant experience. I will go to support my local non-league team instead.
(*Names have been changed to protect the author’s identity).