From next Wednesday, Arsenal supporters will need to present their NHS Covid pass to prove they’ve been double vaccinated or proof of a negative lateral flow test before gaining entry to Emirates Stadium on matchdays.
The decision comes after the UK government confirmed they would implement their so-called ‘Plan B’ in England to deal with a rise in Covid-19 cases amid the spread of the Omicron variant.
Wider use of face masks, advice to work from home and a push on the booster jab front have also been announced.
In a press conference on Wednesday evening, prime minister Boris Johnson said: “We are making the NHS Covid Pass mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather, including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.
“The NHS Covid Pass can still be obtained with two doses [of the vaccine] and we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out. Having taken clinical advice since the emergence of Omicron, a negative lateral flow test will also be sufficient. This will come into force in a week’s time.”
According to the Mirror, Premier League clubs were given a heads up last week about the possible introduction of the passes. Some, including Sp*rs, trialled their use in pre-season expecting them to be implemented when the season commenced in August.
So what does it all mean? Well, it’s fair to say that supporters up and down the country can expect delays when trying to get into stadia.
As any regular at the Emirates will tell you, it’s no secret that Arsenal already struggles to get punters into the ground in time for kick-off. What was once a relatively seamless experience when the Emirates opened in 2006 has gradually become more and more painful.
Terrorist threats forced the introduction of security checks on arrival, a draconian bag policy has been implemented and the new season ticket cards and etickets don’t seem to scan on the upgraded readers as well as their forerunners.
A few added seconds per person multiplied by 60,000 means queues, often long ones that all too regularly snake in different directions because of a lack of stewards on the ground.
We’re hopeful Arsenal have their sh*t together on the vaccine passport front but we’re not holding our breath. As things stand, we don’t know if you’ll have to simply show the passport or whether QR codes will be individually scanned. If it’s the latter, that comes with its own problems.
We’re assuming at this point that supporters visiting Arsenal from abroad will be able to present their country’s own version of a Covid Pass.
There will of course be some Arsenal supporters who, for whatever reason, have not been double vaccinated. Presumably, the option to take a lateral flow test is aimed at them.
Arsenal take on Southampton on Saturday and then West Ham on Wednesday. We await confirmation from the club that they will implement the new rules for the second of these back-to-back home games.