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Supporters return to stadia edges closer with government ‘pleased’ with first pilot event

The prospect of supporters returning to stadiums has edged close with the government ‘pleased’ with football’s first pilot event last weekend.

Brighton’s pre-season friendly with Chelsea was used as a trial for the reintegration of supporters back inside stadia, with 2500 fans present inside the Amex Stadium for the 1-1 draw between the Premier League sides on Saturday.

It marked a landmark moment, with the fixture the first contest played in front of fans at a Premier League ground since football was halted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March.

According to the Mail, the fixture was ‘closely observed’ by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and discussions will now take place with experts from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority about a potential increase in fans allowed to attend fixtures at a social distance.

Several plans have already been put into place for a phased return of supporters across a variety of sports this month, including for the Women’s Super League fixture between West Ham and Arsenal on September 12 and the finals of the FA Trophy and Vase.

Football’s authorities are desperate to return paying supporters to grounds as swiftly as possible, with clubs lower down the footballing pyramid in desperate need of the matchday revenue which makes up a significant portion of their overall income.

The government are hopeful that the first positive steps have been made towards returning to normality inside sporting stadia, with hopes high that a widespread gradual phasing in of supporters can begin in October, should the rate of infection remain stable in wider society.

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