Premier League clubs are said to be concerned over season ticket sales amid increased calls for all games to be broadcast whilst fans are unable to attend stadiums.
The government has urged the Premier League to consider televising an increased number of fixtures this season given the absence of supporters within stadiums, and while they are focussed on seeing fans return to stadiums to some form in the coming months, they have called on the Premier League to listen to ‘loyal fans’ to find a solution in the meantime.
“Our focus is on working with the football authorities, safety and medical experts to get fans back in stadia as quickly as possible,” a spokesman for the Department of Culture, Sports and Media said on Wednesday, as per the BBC.
“It is for the Premier League and its broadcast partners to come to an agreement on screening matches, however we urge them to follow the spirit of Project Restart and listen to clubs’ loyal fans and consider what can be achieved in the meantime.”
Despite successful initial pilots with reduced, socially distanced attendances, there remains no firm date for the prospect of supporters returning to Premier League stadiums, a situation which leaves clubs in difficulty in terms of selling tickets, a key part of their revenue.
Football’s authorities do hold tentative ambitions of a phased return for fans in October, though the approval of reduced capacity fixtures remains dependent on the nation’s infection rate and will still leave thousands of regular match-going fans unable to attend fixtures – with suggestions that away supporters may not return at all during the 2020/21 campaign.
📸 Socially-distanced supporters watch from the stands as the Brighton v Chelsea pre-season friendly is used a test event. pic.twitter.com/gb9xtNMort
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) August 29, 2020
Part of the terms for the Premier League’s restart in June was the increase in televised fixtures with each of the remaining 92 games broadcast live, though there have been no plans to continue the increased access ahead of the new campaign which begins on September 12.
As things stand, 220 of the league’s 380 fixtures will be broadcast live by Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime, leaving the prospect of 160 clashes without fans in attendance or watching live from home.
According to the Telegraph though, Premier League sides believe that televising all games will have a negative impact on attendances when fans are permitted to enter stadiums, as well as costing sides a significant portion of their revenue.
The Football Supporters Association have campaigned for more games to be broadcast during pandemic, however, believing a lack of televised games could lead to supporters accessing illegal pirate broadcast schemes.
“We all want to get back to games when it’s safe to do so,” said Kevin Miles, Chief executive of the FSA. “But it’s not in anyone’s interests to have a situation where fans excluded from grounds for reasons of health or Covid-related capacity reductions feel they have no option but to resort to illegal pirate broadcast schemes.”
The terms of this season’s broadcast agreement os one of a number of items on the agenda at Thursday’s Premier League shareholders meeting.