Premier League official warns MPs that Covid passports are not a “magic wand”


  • Premier League official warns “economics” of commercial entertainment industry will be destroyed unless capacity can be increased

  • Member of the SAGE subcommittee Professor Stephen Reicher warns vaccine passports “generate heat, controversy and division.”

  • Baroness Karren Brady calls on government to address practical challenges, adding that Covid passports are “no silver bullet”


A Premier League official has warned MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus that introducing Covid passports will not be a “magic wand”, but that measures are needed to help football clubs increase capacity at games or the economics of the industry will be “destroyed”.

Speaking at an evidence hearing this morning, Premier League executive director Bill Bush said that  “we do support some form of certification for our events”, and that the alternative was restrictions in the form of social distancing and smaller crowds. He said that current planning was for matches to be held at 17% to 18% capacity under Covid restrictions, but that unless this capacity can be increased “the economics of the commercial entertainment industries are completely destroyed.”

Meanwhile, Henk van Klaveren, head of public affairs at the Airport Operators’ Association, said that enabling the NHS app to prove a user’s vaccine status “should be a relatively simple technical step” but he is “not as confident” about whether it will integrate test results. He also highlighted that there is currently no road map on how international travel will restart in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and called for a four-nation approach” to the issue.

Meanwhile, Professor Stephen Reicher, member of the SAGE subcommittee advising on behavioural science warned that “vaccine passports generate heat, controversy and division at a time when we need clarity and unity.” He said that vaccine passports for domestic use, such as to enter restaurants or pubs, could be “counter productive” if it leads to  “alienation and undermines the level of vaccine take up” among deprived and minority communities.

Baroness Karren Brady, member of the APPG on Coronavirus, said:

“Sadly serious questions remain over how Covid passports would work and how effective they would be, whether for domestic events or international travel.

“We still don’t know how long immunity from vaccines lasts, whether a streamlined digital system can be introduced in time for this summer and if it will include Covid test results.

“The UK government should work with the aviation and events industries to provide answers to these practical challenges.

“Ultimately though we should remember that Covid passports are no silver bullet, and that a wider strategy is needed to keep the virus and new variants under control.”



Notes to Editor

Today’s APPG evidence session on Covid variants, borders and international travel is available to watch here: 

Today’s APPG evidence session took place from 11.30am to 1pm and heard from the following witnesses:

  • Bill Bush, Executive Director of the Premier League, former Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister (1999-2001) and to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (2001-2005). 

  • Henk van Klaveren, Head of Public Affairs at the Airport Operators Association (AOA). The AOA is the trade association for UK airports and is the principal body engaging with the UK government and regulatory authorities on airport matters.

  • Paul Nuki, Global Health Security Editor, The Telegraph - a senior British journalist who has extensively covered the coronavirus pandemic including the use of Covid passports in the travel industry.

  • Professor Stephen Reicher - member of the SAGE subcommittee advising on behavioural science, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews, and a member of Independent SAGE.

  • Professor John Drury - social psychologist specialising in the study of collective behaviour at the University of Sussex.

  • Dr Tolullah Oni - Public Health Physician Scientist and urban epidemiologist, a Clinical Senior Research fellow with the Unit’s Global Public Health Research programme and a member of Independent SAGE.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has been conducting an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, and has so far held over 20 hearings and made over 40 recommendations.