Spectators will have to show proof of full Covid-19 vaccination or a recent negative lateral flow test to attend sporting events with crowds of more than 10,000 people in England from today.
The Government’s Covid Plan B measures, which apply to events like Premier League matches, have come into force after passing a Commons vote on Tuesday evening.
Brighton, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Arsenal are all due to host games on Wednesday night.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has called the measures “proportionate” to the situation the country faces at the moment but refused to rule out even stricter measures such as forcing clubs to reduce capacity at matches.
Stadiums have been free to operate at full capacity since final Covid restrictions were lifted in July.
The introduction of mandatory Covid passes for large venues comes as the Premier League steps up its efforts to combat the threat posed by the Omicron variant of the virus, with top-flight players and staff now required to take a lateral flow test every time they want to enter their club’s training ground.
Premier League clubs have agreed stricter measures in a week when two top-flight matches – Tottenham v Brighton and Brentford v Manchester United – have been postponed due to Covid cases.
The PA news agency understands anyone wishing to enter a Premier League training ground will be required to take a lateral flow test outside, while twice-weekly PCR testing is also being introduced.
The decision on increased testing was taken at a clubs’ shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday, and will sit alongside existing emergency measures around face coverings, limiting time in the treatment room and observing social distancing which were reintroduced last week.
The moves come as the highly transmissible Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain of coronavirus in the UK.
The league announced on Monday there had been 42 positive Covid tests among Premier League players and staff last week – the most it had recorded in any previous seven-day period.
With the season about to enter the busy festive programme, clubs are desperate to avoid a raft of postponements which would create a backlog later in the campaign and could impact upon the integrity of the competition.
Widespread postponements could also leave the league open to demands for rebates from broadcast partners, which had to be paid when the 2019-20 season was suspended at the start of the pandemic.