Wolverhampton Wanderers legend Carl Ikeme has joined the chorus of concern over the UK government’s controversial plans to trial Covid passports at a series of sporting events, calling the move “discriminatory”.
Several high-profile football matches in England will see the return of a limited number of fans in the coming weeks as part of a scheme by Boris Johnson’s government to edge the country out of lockdown.
Some of the events – including the FA Cup final on May 15, one of the biggest dates in the English sporting calendar – could require some form of Covid certification for those wishing to attend.
The exact details of the scheme are as yet unclear, but could include fans using a mobile application or certificate to show a recent negative Covid test, proof of Covid vaccination, or evidence that they have natural immunity by recovering from the illness in the past 6 months.
Despite PM Johnson being at pains to stress that the government has not finalized any long-term plans for Covid passports, that has done little to quell the concerns of those who fear creeping authoritarianism.
That includes Wolves goalkeeping icon Ikeme, 34, who has hit out on social media at the plans, claiming they would discriminate against minority groups in particular.
“I would urge [the FA] not to use covid pass[ports] in the up and coming FA cup final,” Ikeme tweeted.
“Covid passes will be a form of discrimination in which you have said you stand against!! It will cause even more discrimination in the communities a lot of players are bending the knee for before games!”
I would urge @FA not to use covid pass in the up and coming FA cup finals . Covid passes will be a form of discrimination in which you have said you stand against!! It will cause even more discrimination in the communities a lot of players are bending the knee for before games !
— Carl Ikeme (@Carl_Ikeme) April 6, 2021
The former shotstopper – who made more than 200 appearances for the West Midlands club and also represented Nigeria at international level – added that the step would drive fans away from matches, rather than welcoming them back.
“This will not bring more people into our beautiful game it will simply push them away,” Ikeme fumed.
“And in engaging with covid passes you are complicit in pushing for this in society! The game is either safe for us all, or none of us!”
This will not bring more people into our beautiful game it will simply push them away. And in engaging with covid passes you are complicit in pushing for this in society! The game is either safe for us all, or none of us!!!!
— Carl Ikeme (@Carl_Ikeme) April 6, 2021
“100% big man! Turning people into 2nd class citizens because they cant or choose not to have the vaccine. It’s disgusting,” tweeted former Wolves player Martin Riley in support.
💯% big man! Turning people into 2nd class citizens because they cant or choose not to have the vaccine. It’s disgusting
— Martin Riley (@LifeofRiley6) April 6, 2021
Ikeme, whose career came to an end after he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2017 – a battle he would win – is not the only one to react with anger at the government’s nascent ‘Covid status certification’ plans.
Large numbers of MPs across the political spectrum have been up in arms, with Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey stating: “As we start to get this virus properly under control we should start getting our freedoms back. Vaccine passports – essentially Covid ID cards – take us in the other direction.”
Conservative MP Bridgen has said the move would be “divisive” and “a major infringement of civil liberties,” while others such as former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Tory counterpart Iain Duncan Smith have similarly signaled their opposition.
The sporting events named as potentially requiring a Covid certificate to attend also include the FA Cup semifinal between Leicester City and Southampton at Wembley Stadium on April 18, and the Carabao Cup Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at the same venue one week later.
Somewhat confusingly, several of the venues named in the pilot scheme – including a nightclub in Liverpool – have since clarified that they will not require Covid certificates for people to attend, with one citing a “massive backlash” after the pilot plans were unveiled.