Premier League keep pressure on Government on fans return to grounds

Premier League keep pressure on Government on fans return to grounds

Premier League release open letter calling for the Government to allow the return of football fans to stadiums in the wake of arts and music venues being allowed spectators back

  • The Premier League released an open letter to supporters regarding fans’ return
  • So far football has not been allowed to welcome back a reduced crowd to games
  • The arts sector have been able to have crowds indoors and outdoors at events
  • In the letter, the Premier League called for consistency from the UK Government 

The Premier League has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the rest of Government to show consistency in decisions made over spectators at public events.

The arts sector were moved to stage four by the Government in August, which allowed reduced, socially distanced crowds permitted indoors and outdoors at events. 

While the Premier League, in an open letter to supporters on Tuesday, acknowledged that is a positive step forward amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the English top-flight has urged for more consistency with crowds being kept away from elite-level football despite a series of successful test events last month. 

Premier League clubs are hoping to get fans back into stadiums soon in a Covid-secure way

Premier League games have continued to go ahead behind-closed-doors without any fans

Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled the original October 1 return date for football clubs to welcome a reduced capacity crowd back to stadiums due to rising coronavirus case numbers

‘We will continue to urge Government to allow us to return fans safely to stadiums,’ the letter, which was signed by Richard Masters, Premier League Chief Executive, David Baldwin, EFL Chief Executive, Mark Bullingham, FA Chief Executive and Kelly Simmons, FA Director of Women’s Professional Game, read. 

‘It is positive progress that major arts and music venues have been told they can run socially-distanced events indoors. And now football should be allowed to do the same – in highly regulated and stewarded outdoor environments. 

‘We are determined to identify a path forward with Government. We need clarity for our clubs and for you as supporters as to what the roadmap for change in this area looks like.

‘We all know why caution is needed, and we ask Government for consistency in their policy so sport is treated as fairly as other activities currently allowed to welcome spectators.’ 

The Government’s initial plan was to see clubs welcome a reduced crowd back to matches on October 1 with a desire to limit the financial damage to clubs lower down the Football League. 

But a rise in coronavirus cases saw the plan shelved and there remains no fixed date for when clubs can expect to see fans return.  

Earlier this week it was reported that an expert group set up by the Government are studying whether Germany’s system of allowing fans into sports events can be used in England.

Tens of thousands of fans have been allowed back in to Bundesliga football games over the past fortnight, with 11,500 supporters attending Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 victory against Freiburg on Saturday – a stark contrast to the shutout in England and Wales.

Royal Albert Hall have announced a Covid-secure programme is to be run over Christmas

An expert group is studying whether Germany’s model of fans in stadiums can work in England

‘In light of the postponement of test events we will intensify our efforts to pioneer new approaches – working with epidemiologists, scientists and medical experts in areas such as public health, clinical processes and occupational hygiene,’ the open letter continued. 

‘This will make sure stadiums are COVID-safe by considering best-practice screening and hygiene methods to ensure that fans and the general public will be safe and drive the Government’s sporting plans to move faster.’ 

The letter is split into three parts where it is explained how test events were successful and the work that is being done to reduce the risk of transmission between supporters with extra resources now at grounds. 

Travel is a major concern, particularly for Premier League games where fans can travel from all over the country to reach the stadium. 

‘From a travel perspective, clubs will work closely with experts and local authorities to model solutions relevant for each stadium to ease pressure on public transport, while extra parking facilities could be available so a greater proportion of you can travel by private car or bicycle,’ the league explains.  

Clubs up and down England have taken huge hits to their finances due to fans being kept away

Brighton have now been able to analyse the impact of their test event against Chelsea on August 29, when 2,524 fans were allowed back in their 30,666-seat stadium. 

Rob Galloway, who is the club doctor responsible for the Amex Stadium and is also A&E consultant at Brighton and Sussex University Hospital, said: ‘The event had no effect at all on transmission in Brighton. What you would be looking for is the figures three or four days after the match and there’s no discernible increase.’  

The Government have unequivocally called on the Premier League to fund a bail-out of the Football League, but have not provided many details on when fans can be expected to return. 

Government sources have previously stressed to Sportsmail that the issue remains under ‘constant review’ giving a flicker of hope to sport. 

PREMIER LEAGUE OPEN LETTER TO SUPPORTERS IN FULL 

The Premier League, EFL, The FA, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship want to assure all fans that together we are fully committed to your safe return to football grounds as soon as possible.

The health of the nation remains our overriding priority, and for many months we have been working with experts to make our grounds as safe as, if not safer than, any other public activity currently allowed. And we are consulting with the Football Supporters’ Association to keep supporters updated every step of the way.

We know attendance at matches can play a positive role in people’s lives during these challenging times. And the past few months have shown how clubs can still feel the support of their fans.

Even when you have been unable to get together, you and your clubs have found ways to make a difference in your communities, with clubs delivering food parcels, taking part in phone calls and online conversations with fans, the elderly and vulnerable and moving services and programmes online to make a difference in unprecedented and challenging circumstances.

But we all know football is not the same without fans. Every player and manager is missing the direct connection with you and the impact that you have on our games.

Successful test events

With the EFL, Premier League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship already staging 11 successful test events recently, we have demonstrated that we can deliver matches safely. The sooner we can return, the sooner we can reunite communities and support local jobs, livelihoods, regional businesses and also the national economy.

We will continue to urge Government to allow us to return fans safely to stadiums. It is positive progress that major arts and music venues have been told they can run socially-distanced events indoors. And now football should be allowed to do the same – in highly regulated and stewarded outdoor environments.

Additionally, representatives from football are active members of the Government’s Sports Technology and Innovation Group, as well as being involved with their ‘Moonshot’ mass-testing project to open up the economy.

And in light of the postponement of test events we will intensify our efforts to pioneer new approaches – working with epidemiologists, scientists and medical experts in areas such as public health, clinical processes and occupational hygiene. This will make sure stadiums are COVID-safe by considering best-practice screening and hygiene methods to ensure that fans and the general public will be safe and drive the Government’s sporting plans to move faster.

Reducing risk of transmission

Stadium environments can be modified and carefully managed. Measures could include screening spectators before they enter the ground, installing temperature checks, requiring masks to be worn, one-way systems and providing a code of conduct for all those attending on a matchday. This will all be bolstered by deep-cleaning practices to help further reduce the risk of virus transmission.

Clubs want to be pro-active on this matter and are willing to consider measures both in the stadium and on the approach that will allay any concerns as to fans’ safety.

From a travel perspective, clubs will work closely with experts and local authorities to model solutions relevant for each stadium to ease pressure on public transport, while extra parking facilities could be available so a greater proportion of you can travel by private car or bicycle.

We are determined to identify a path forward with Government. We need clarity for our clubs and for you as supporters as to what the roadmap for change in this area looks like.

We all know why caution is needed, and we ask Government for consistency in their policy so sport is treated as fairly as other activities currently allowed to welcome spectators.

So, we will continue to urge the relevant authorities to let us, together, use innovative ways to bring fans safely back into football grounds, starting with a return of the test event programme. If we do so, then the benefits will be felt not just by fans but throughout society and the economy.

Richard Masters, Premier League Chief Executive

David Baldwin, EFL Chief Executive

Mark Bullingham, FA Chief Executive

Kelly Simmons, FA Director of Women’s Professional Game

 


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