Fans could return to some football grounds in April as part of new "pilot" events as England prepares for the gradual easing of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Government has announced that test events will be held ahead of a planned return of up to 10,000 fans to grounds - or a quarter-capacity of smaller stadiums - no sooner than May 17.

A "series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes" will begin in April.

It is not yet clear whether Carlisle United will be involved in any such events that would see fans back in Brunton Park before the end of the season.

It appears a regular return of supporters for United's remaining games of the 46-match season is off the cards.

Should the Blues be involved in the League Two play-offs, though, the proposed May 17 return of supporters could allow fans to watch Chris Beech's again before the end of 2020/21.

The play-off finals in the EFL are scheduled for the weekend of May 29-31, with semi-final dates not yet confirmed. The 46-game league season is due to end on May 8.

Newly-published Government information sets out plans for stadiums with more than 40,000 seats to welcome 10,000 fans back from May 17.

Smaller "major venues" will be permitted a quarter capacity from that date onwards.

The plans could see significant numbers of fans back in Premier League grounds before the end of the campaign, with the top-flight season's final day May 23.

United were involved in "pilot" events earlier this season, welcoming 1,000 fans to Brunton Park for last September's game against Southend.

Carlisle then opened their doors to 2,000 home fans for games in December before the latest lockdown sent the season back behind closed doors.

The latest plans emerged as the Prime Minister announces a "roadmap" out of the current coronavirus restrictions.

The Government's Covid-19 latest 2021 response document says that April will see the start of "a scientific Events Research Programme".

"This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes," it adds.

"The Government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events."

The EFL issued a response to the news.

In a statement, the League said it wanted to see fans back in grounds "as soon as it is safe to do so" and that they would continue to work with clubs, Government, the Sports Ground Safety Authority and local authorities.

They said autumn pilot events have shown that clubs are ready to deliver successful test events.

The League said it "looked forward to engaging" with the Government about its pilot programme, ahead of April's Carabao Cup final and the culmination of the EFL season.

They said they would be working to welcome "as many fans as possible" to the play-off finals, the statement added.