The Championship play-off final is set to be moved to allow the all-English Champions League final to take place in this country, but concerns the Reds’ semi-final could be a behind-closed-doors affair are expected to be put to rest on Tuesday.
Valerien Ismael’s side finished fifth in this season’s Championship, setting up a two-legged semi-final against fourth-placed Swansea City on May 17 and 22, with the final against the winners of Brentford and Bournemouth due to be played at Wembley seven days later.
That the semi-final first legs are due to be played later than usual after the end of the regular season was deliberate as May 17 Is the date limited numbers of fans are due to be allowed into English stadiums under the Government’s coronavirus “road map”.
Wales is following a different timescale and it had been suggested if no fans were allowed into the Liberty Stadium, the first leg at Oakwell could also be played behind closed doors for fairness.
However it is now expected the Welsh Assembly will announce on Tuesday the second leg has been designated as the country’s first sporting pilot event for the return of fans.
Coronavirus will, though, make arrangements for the final more complicated.
Uefa are expected to announce the Champions League final will now take place at Wembley on May 29, forcing the Football League to change their plans. They are open to the idea of playing at a different venue or on a different day so Manchester City and Chelsea do not have to travel to Istanbul for the European showpiece.
Uefa plans to have fans at the game but UK Government advice prohibits any travel from this country to “red-listed” Turkey, so there has been considerable lobbying for the game to be moved to England.
Villa Park had volunteered as a venue, but Uefa is thought to want the prestigious national stadium, which will also hold this season’s European Championships semi-finals and finals.
The Championship play-off final is due to be the first of three on consecutive days at Wembley to decide the final promotion spots in each division of the Football League.
England will play their two pre-European Championships friendlies at Middlesbrough, easing the demand on Wembley. Its next scheduled fixture is England’s June 13 opening game against Croatia in the delayed summer tournament.
Playing contracts typically run until the end of June so that will not be an issue, but the authorities may still decide it is better to play the games on the Bank Holiday Weekend as planned, particularly as moving to a smaller venue will not affect the capacity.
Attendances at all 40,000-plus-seater stadia will be capped at 10,000 for the play-off finals, and Oakwell is set to be limited to 4,500 for Swansea’s visit. The ground last hosted fans at home to Cardiff City on March 7, 2020.