There is a ‘growing belief’ amongst Premier League clubs than fans could be allowed to return to football grounds from September.
English football’s top tier has been suspended since mid-March in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic but is set to make its return behind-closed-doors later this month, with only 300 people allowed in each stadium including players, coaches, officials and broadcasters.
The continued threat of the Covid-19 crisis means that much uncertainty remains over when – or indeed if – football will return to normality in the near future, though according to the Mirror there is a ‘growing belief’ that some fans may be allowed into stadiums at the start of next season.
Any return for fans was not discussed at the shareholders meeting on Thursday, though there is a belief that supporters could be allowed into stadiums – at ‘greatly reduced numbers’ to allow for ‘some degree of social distancing’ – by the time the 2020/21 season kicks off in September.
“No one knows when matches will move away from the behind-closed-doors model,” Richards Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, told Sky Sports last week.
“Obviously, it’s right to have contingency plans in place, but there is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will start to see fans back in the stadiums next season, and it may happen on a phased basis.”
Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, has also spoken about the importance of supporters returning to stadiums. The north London side were this week found to have borrowed £175m from the Bank of England to cover their financial losses during the coronavirus crisis, and Levy admits authorities must work together to find a safe way for spectators to return.
🗣"There is optimism that fans will return next season but on a phased basis"
Premier League CEO Richard Masters on fans returning to stadiums pic.twitter.com/raBFCgsDBX
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 29, 2020
“We have always run this club on a self-sustaining commercial basis,” Levy told Spurs official website.
“I said as early as 18 March that, in all my 20 years at the club, there have been many hurdles along the way but none of this magnitude – the Covid-19 pandemic has shown itself to be the most serious of them all.
“It is imperative that we now all work together – scientists, technologists, the government and the live events sector – to find a safe way to bring spectators back to sport and entertainment venues.
“Collectively we have the ability to support the development of new technologies to make this possible and to once again experience the passion of fans at live events.”
However, fans in Hungary at the weekend ignored social distancing policies during the Hungarian cup final, in what was the first big game in Europe to be played in front of supporters since the suspension of football.
Around 10,000 fans were allowed entrance into the 65,000-capacity Puskás Arena, though despite regulations to sit four seats apart, ignored guidelines to congregate behind each of the goals in what would be a concern for English authorities.
The Netherlands, however, are taking a much more cautious approach to returning to normality, announcing there will be no fans allowed into live sporting events until a vaccine for the virus is found.