UK Govt’s ‘fans’ policy’ irks Premier League



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UK back with fans update Sept. 2020 Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

The Premier League recently expressed its “concern” at the decisions taken by the UK Government to restrict, and potentially put back, the planned program for the return of fans to football stadia. The football league has apprised the UK Government that more than £100m (€107.9m/$127.9m) is lost to the sport across the leagues for each month played out sans spectators.

The new season of Premier League started on September 12th, 2020, and will end on May 23rd, 2021. All matches will be a closed door affair with the planned return of fans in October. The return of fans in October does not seem a likely scenario as UK sees rise in coronavirus cases again.

The Premier League, often referred to as the English Premier League or the EPL outside England, is the top level of the English football league system. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the English Football League.

The Premier League has spoken out after the Government announced that pilot sporting events held in England this month will be limited to 1,000 spectators with UK witnessing resurgence in COVID-19 cases which still has the world in its fatal grip.

The change came into effect recently and applies to all remaining test events planned for September. A number of successful pilots have already been held across football, rugby union, cricket and snooker.

A decision on whether fans can return to stadia on a wider basis from October 1st is also set to be made by the Government. October has previously been outlined as a potential return date for a limited number of fans to come back to venues across the board. But, with COVID-19 once again coming back to haunt UK, supporters by the horde may not be allowed.

The Premier League has now written to the Government, highlighting its concerns and stating its belief that measures are already in place that would allow for the safe return of fans.

The League said in a statement, “With test events now capped at 1,000 supporters, we believe they will not provide any opportunity to properly test and evaluate measures designed to maximize fan safety. Therefore, Premier League clubs will defer holding test events until a sufficient number of fans are allowed back to enable thorough trials to take place.”

The League added, “At 1,000 supporters, not only would there be little to learn from a test event, but each match would be heavily loss-making. For each month of the season without fans, more than £100m is lost to football across the leagues, with consequent damage to the local and national economy. It also harms the employment prospects of more than 100,000 people whose jobs depend on matchday activities.”

“Our clubs have already prepared test events and can offer larger scale trials to prove it is possible to produce bio-secure, safe environments, as was proved through the successful delivery of Project Restart. The Premier League recognizes the ambition of the Government’s Operation Moonshot and will support the project’s objectives to get fans back into stadiums. However, we believe measures are already available which would allow the safe return of fans and should also be activated now,” the statement added.

“As the Government begins its review of the October 1 date for the return of spectators to sport, the Premier League asks that the high safety standards which can be achieved by our clubs are fully taken into account before any decision is taken and that sport is not left behind other industries,” the statement concluded.

A number of pilot events are scheduled for the remainder of September. Football events include Non-League Finals Day at Wembley Stadium on September 27th.

Earlier this week, Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said that it is “absolutely critical” for fans to return to the stadium fold as soon as possible, claiming that an absence of supporters could cost clubs as much as £700m over the course of the 2020-21 seasons.

Masters revealed before mediapersons that disruption at the end of the 2019-20 season cost clubs more than £250m.

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