Major events at the O2 Arena and across London are included in a string of 'tests' for the large-scale return of crowds without social distancing as early as April and May.

The FA Cup final, the World Snooker Championship and the BRIT Awards at the O2 Arena on the Greenwich Peninsula are among the dozen sporting and cultural events earmarked.

The Government announced plans for a pilot programme to get under way in April when it set out its road map in February for the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

And the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has now provided more detail, saying there will be “around a dozen” events serving as tests for the large-scale return of spectators to venues.

As revealed by Oliver Dowden, head of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the events in question cover major sporting fixtures, music award ceremonies and nightclub events.

The FA Cup final on May 15 is the most high-profile of the events to be announced, plus the BRIT Awards at the O2 Arena on May 17, and the World Snooker Championships in April.

FA Cup Final - PA

FA Cup Final - PA

Other events cover sporting fixtures, comedy clubs and a nightclub event.

Decisions on capacity for any of the events have not yet been taken, but it is reasonable to expect that for the FA Cup final the intention would be to go considerably beyond the 10,000 limit for larger outdoor seated venues set to come into force at step three of the road map on May 17.

The pilots form part of the Events Research Programme (ERP) and will inform Government decisions on step four of the road map, which will begin no earlier than June 21 when it is hoped spectators will be able to get back safely and in large numbers. The idea is to test a range of sporting and cultural venues, from Wembley on one hand to a 200-capacity comedy club on the other.

With such a range of venues to test within the ERP and the limited number of events proposed by DCMS, it leaves open the question of whether the EFL or the Premier League will be involved in the pilots.

The EFL is understood to remain keen to participate, with the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham – also to be played at Wembley on April 25 – considered its ideal event to test.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says the Government is working “flat out” to get spectators back into venues without social distancing (Yui Mok/PA)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says the Government is working “flat out” to get spectators back into venues without social distancing (Yui Mok/PA)

“We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen. We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.

“These are important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave and that I’m fully focused on delivering.”

The events will test a range of ‘non-pharmaceutical’ methods to allow the safe return of fans without social distancing – including venue layout, face coverings and ventilation.

Researchers will monitor spectators’ movements and interactions while the event is ongoing, DCMS said.

Rapid testing will also be key to the events. Testing before and after the event will be mandatory, but it is not confirmed yet how close to the event a negative test would need to be provided to allow entry.

David Ross, the founder of Carphone Warehouse and the chair of the Sports Technology and Innovation Group (STIG) which oversaw pilot events last year, will be one of the co-advisers on the ERP.

A report from the ERP will go to Government for consideration before the end of May, DCMS said.