Hope has been increased that Premier League fans can return to stadiums before the end of the season following encouraging progress in finding a coronavirus vaccine.
English football has been played behind-closed-doors since its return from a three-month hiatus in June, with initial plans for a staged return of supporters in October having been postponed amid rising Covid-19 cases and a second nationwide lockdown.
However, encouraging news regarding a potential vaccine has emerged from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech, who are in the final stages of testing a vaccine with a reported 90% effectiveness in combatting Covid-19.
It is one of 11 vaccines that are currently in the final stages of testing with Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, revealing the NHS are ready to provide a potential vaccine ‘as fast as safely possible’ and suggesting a mass roll-out could occur ‘in the first part of next year’.
According to the Telegraph, that news has raised optimism amongst Premier League chiefs over the potential return of supporters to stadiums, with the league reportedly ‘close to agreeing a blueprint’ with the Government to add vaccine results to a digital passport in a bid to ‘fast-track’ the return of fans.
The technology is viewed as the ‘most likely route to getting crowds to return when cases start easing’ with clubs able to monitor the health records of fans, though restrictions will still be widespread in the event of any return, including social distancing, staggered transport and reduced capacities.
According to deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, the UK have ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine and the news has raised hopes of a return to some sense of normality in the near future.
However, health experts have warned that older and more vulnerable people will be first in line for a vaccine, with doubts over whether any vaccine will be made widely available to the public before the end of the current campaign.