Cardboard cutouts of fans take the place of spectators who have been barred from attending sporting events in the United Kingdom due to the coronavirus pandemic ©Getty Images

A number of Britain’s leading sports governing bodies have united behind plans for "vaccine passports" to be used to enable fans to return to venues this year.

The Football Association (FA), Premier League, Scottish Professional Football League, England and Wales Cricket Board, Lawn Tennis Association, All England Lawn Tennis Club, Rugby Football Union and Rugby Football League have all signed the letter issued to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other political leaders.

The United Kingdom Government is planning to test how COVID-19 status certificates could help crowds return to major events.

The sports bodies say they can "see the benefit" of vaccine passports in a bid to get fans back into stadiums as soon as possible and warned politicians that "sport’s COVID financial crisis" would continue if teams and competitions were only allowed to fill their venues to 25 per cent capacity.

But they insisted the process "must not be discriminatory, should protect privacy, and have clear exit criteria", and should not be required for "any form of participation in grassroots sport".

"There are many issues to be addressed including how the technology would work and its ease of use at major events, for both the attendees and the organisers," the letter read.

"All of our sports can see the benefit that a COVID-certification process offers in getting more fans safely back to their sport as quickly as possible.

"We know that our stadia can only be fully filled with an assurance process.

"This process must ensure that everyone can access stadia and must include arrangement that would verify a negative COVID test or an antibody test or vaccination certification."

The UK Government is looking at the possibility of introducing COVID-19 status certificates to allow people to attend large sporting events ©Getty Images
The UK Government is looking at the possibility of introducing COVID-19 status certificates to allow people to attend large sporting events ©Getty Images

The organisations said they wanted "certainty as soon as possible" as they aim to "plan efficiently and effectively with many big sporting events scheduled for late June and onwards".

The UK has been one of the hardest hit nations by the coronavirus pandemic having recorded about 127,000 fatalities – the fifth highest death toll in the world.

But the success of the vaccination rollout and a decreasing infection rate has seen the UK Government start to ease restrictions.

Under its roadmap out of lockdown, 10,000 fans could be permitted at large outdoor sporting venues in England from May 17.

The FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton on April 18 is set to be used as a test event for the return of spectators.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Premier League executive director Bill Bush said: "The alternative [to certification] is not freedom.

"The alternative is social distancing, tiny crowds, major restrictions on people’s movement and ability to eat, drink and travel.

"So to end those restrictions of freedom, we believe that something like this is an acceptable burden to give fans the freedom to attend."

A spokesperson from the UK Government said: "We welcome the constructive approach from major British sports as we explore how testing COVID certification and other steps can help get more fans back into stadiums and other large events safely.

"We want as many fans as possible to be able to enjoy a great British summer of sport, safely."