Supporters set to return to Wembley for League Cup final

LONDON (AP) — Wembley is ready to welcome crowds back later this month after being empty for more than a year.

Only local workers and residents will be among the 4,000 spectators allowed into the national football stadium for the FA Cup semifinal between Leicester and Southampton. But the League Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham has been lined up to also have a limited number of fans of the clubs in a crowd of up to 8,000 in the 90,000-capacity venue.

A wider relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in England will not take effect until May to allow stadiums across the country to open their turnstiles again for the first time in 2021 with a maximum of 10,000 spectators.

But the pilot events at Wembley this month will be used to assess procedures for coronavirus testing on fans that will eventually allow for far bigger crowds to be welcomed back — particularly for the European Championship, with seven games including the semifinals and final in July at the stadium.

Brent Council, the London authority covering Wembley, wrote to residents this week asking them to register their interest in attending the two games.

For the FA Cup semifinal on April 18, 4,000 tickets are due to be allocated locally including to Brent Council staff, those working in the health sector, teachers, students over the age of 18 and residents of Wembley Park, which includes apartment blocks surrounding the stadium.

“These groups have been chosen as they are largely already in regular testing regimes,” Brent Council said.

The League Cup final is a week later on April 25 when the crowd is expected to double in size.

“The second event will have a larger capacity and also include fans,” said the message to residents in the north London district, which has been seen by The Associated Press.

The council said each attendee has to return a negative lateral flow COVID-19 test 24 hours before attending the game and show proof to gain entry. They will also need to take a PCR home test after the event.

Each successful applicant will receive two tickets for each match.

The circular published online says the council is supporting the government and Football Association “to develop a series of pilot events at Wembley Stadium to test how large stadia events can safely reopen to the public in line with the government’s roadmap to opening up this summer.”

The other FA Cup semifinal between Chelsea and Manchester City will be closed to spectators on April 17.

City’s victory over Aston Villa in the League Cup final on March 1, 2020 was the last time Wembley had fans in the stadium.

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