Delighted fans flocked to Wembley on Saturday with over 20,000 set to watch the FA Cup final between Leicester City and Chelsea.
Fans from Leicester who’d made the trip sported their team’s blue colours, with some in fancy dress fox costumes in honour of the club’s nickname.
Others sported silver tinfoil replicas of the FA Cup as they smiled for pictures while making the hallowed walk down Wembley Way. The on and off rain showers couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm.
English football’s showpiece marks the latest step in returning fans to stadiums with the final designated as a pilot event in the Government’s roadmap out of Covid-19 restrictions.
One fan with a strange sense of honour was seen with ‘Covid 19’ printed on the back of his replica shirt.
The Duke of Cambridge will be one of 21,000 in attendance at the national stadium, including 6,250 supporters of each team. Red banners reading ‘It’s great to be back’ lined Wembley Way.
The remainder of the crowd will consist of residents from the Brent area that surrounds Wembley, invited key workers and Football Association guests.
Everyone attending was required to return a negative lateral flow Covid-19 test before travelling to the stadium. Proof of this had to be provided by email or text message to gain entry to Wembley.
Supporters make their way along Wembley Way ahead of Saturday evening’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester
Leicester City fans heading to the FA Cup final enjoy themselves outside Wembley Stadium on Saturday afternoon
21,000 spectators will be inside Wembley to watch the showpiece event in the English football calendar on Saturday night
A Leicester fan wearing a fox outfit sings on Wembley Way as fans get in the mood ahead of the FA Cup final
Security personnel check confirmations of negative Covid-19 tests before allowing supporters to enter Wembley
Young Leicester fans Rocco and Charlie Vine were among the early arrivals at Wembley ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final
Leicester supporters Gurmukh Singh and his nephew Arjun Singh make the walks along Wembley Way towards the stadium
One supporter had the words ‘Covid 19’ printed on the back of their replica shirt as Britain moves slowly closer to normality
Leicester fans Mark, John and Jayden were among the lucky ticket-holders and came armed with the traditional tinfoil FA Cup
Leicester fans wearing fox masks and holding replica FA Cup trophies pose for pictures on Wembley Way
Two Leicester fans pose with something a little closer to the real thing as they make their way into the stadium
These Leicester City fans arrived at Wembley early and braved the rain showers as they got ready for the FA Cup final
Leicester have reached four FA Cup finals in the past – the last time coming back in 1969 – but have never won the competition
The crowds start to build on Wembley Way where banners saying ‘It’s great to be back’ greeted fans of Chelsea and Leicester
Seats are disinfected at Wembley Stadium a day ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester City
Surfaces in the press box at Wembley Stadium are wiped down with disinfectant ahead of Saturday’s showpiece final
The final will see Wembley at just under a quarter of its 90,000-capacity despite mounting fears that the Indian Covid variant could push back the planned exit from restrictions in England on June 21.
Government scientists warned on Friday night that the new strain is ‘realistically’ 50 per cent more infectious than the Kent strain.
They said that if the Indian strain took hold, there could be 10,000 more people hospitalised per day by the Autumn and the possibility of 1,000 deaths per day by summer.
Scientists believe vaccines are less effective against the variant and the rapid spread of the virus among younger people could out-pace the successful programme of vaccination across the UK.
A Warwick University model of a more infectious variant after lockdown is completely lifted on June 21 suggests that any more than a 30 per cent increase in transmissibility compared to the Kent variant could lead to an August peak of daily hospital admissions that is higher than either the first or second wave. In a worst-case scenario with a variant 50 per cent more transmissible, hospital admissions could surge to 10,000 per day or even double that (Thick lines indicate the central estimate while the thin lines are possible upper limits known as confidence intervals)
The LSHTM team suggested that there will be 1,000 deaths per day in August if the variant is 50 per cent more transmissible – which would be less than the 1,900 seen at the peak this January
Britons queue to receive a Covid-19 vaccine at the Essa academy temporary vaccination centre in Bolton
Graphs showing the falling rate of Covid-19 deaths, hospitalisations and positive cases across the United Kingdom
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to ‘throw everything we have at this task’ and will send the Army into the worst variant hotspots to hand out tests in an effort to slow the spread.
That news did little to dampen the enthusiasm of those lucky supporters able to watch their team in the Cup final at Wembley.
The two clubs allocated the tickets to season ticket holders based on the number of away matches they had attended in the past.
It is the largest crowd seen at a pilot event to date. 8,000 fans attended the Carabao Cup final between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at Wembley last month.
The FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton saw 4,000 inside Wembley. The last full house at Wembley was the 2020 Carabao Cup final between Man City and Aston Villa, shortly before the first UK lockdown.
A picture of the 2,000 Manchester City supporters celebrating their win over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup final last month
A crowd of 8,000 spectators attended the Carabao Cup final on April 25 as part of the Government’s pilot events programme
The final two sessions of the World Snooker Championship earlier this month saw a full house of 980 at the Crucible
The recent World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield also saw spectators at every session over the course of 17 days. There was a sell-out crowd for the two sessions of the final on May 3, with 980 mask-wearing fans inside the arena.
With the latest easing of restrictions set for Monday, there will also be limited numbers of home fans at the remaining Premier League fixtures in the next fortnight and also the EFL Play-offs.
It came as London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans for a Euro 2020 fanzone in Trafalgar Square with big screens showing all England’s matches for up to 9,500 fans.
It came as thousands of Rangers fans defied Covid rules to greet their team at Ibrox as they received the Scottish Premiership trophy following their match against Aberdeen.
Both the club and the Scottish Government urged fans to keep away but these requests were ignored.
Rangers fans gathered in their thousands to celebrate their side receiving the Scottish Premier League trophy on Saturday
The Gers fans gave their team a heroes’ welcome when they arrived on the team bus for the final game of the season
Rangers released a statement on Friday calling for fans to respect the lockdown rules in place – but this was ignored
The celebrations come a day after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that Glasgow would be remaining in the highest restrictions bracket along with Moray due to concerns from the Indian coronavirus variant.
Positive cases in the Glasgow area rose up to 3.5 per cent on Friday, with research suggesting the Indian strain of the virus is contributing to these spike in cases. The rest of Scotland will be moving to level 2 from May 17.