Sports minister gives update on the planned return of Premier League fans to stadiums

    Premier League clubs were hoping to welcome fans back to stadiums from the start of October.

    The Government having indicated that if trials of spectators at various sporting arenas during September were successful, then some fans should / could be allowed in after this month.

    Widespread reports suggested up to around 30% of capacity could be allowed at Premier League grounds initially and this weekend Newcastle United revealed that this was the ballpark figure they were working with.

    The club in a statement saying that their preparation for whenever supporters would be allowed back, was to have somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 inside St James Park initially – which is roughly 20% to 30% of capacity at SJP.

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    However, with the overall virus situation getting more challenging again, the trials at sporting arenas this month were reined in considerably. The maximum numbers allowed during the trials, limited to only 1,000 at any event. Brighton having previously hosted a successful trial with 2,500 present for a friendly against Chelsea.

    On Friday, the Premier League revealed that they had written to the Government, pleading with them to still allow some fans to return as from the start of October. However, they also stated that limiting trials to only 1,000 maximum at Premier League stadiums rendered those trials worthless with numbers too low and they wouldn’t be hosting any this month unless numbers allowed increased.

    Now there is a possible ray of hope, as former Minister for Sport, Tracey Crouch, wrote to Nigel Huddlestone, who is currently the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport.

    Huddlestone has now replied to Tracey Crouch yesterday (Monday 14 September 2020) and that reply has been made public.

    Nigel Huddlestone says that football fans (in Premier League and the divisions below) could still return to matches in October despite a recent spike in virus cases.

    Nigel Huddlestone’s reply to Tracey Crouch:

    “The government wants to see spectators back at sports events as soon and as safely as possible.

    “We have made important progress in staging a series of pilot and test events across different sports with more to follow.

    “The pilot programme will continue throughout September, restricted to a maximum capacity of 1,000 people.

    “The success of these events will be reviewed ahead of the current date of October 1 for reopening for socially distanced spectators under covid-secure conditions more widely if public health conditions permit.

    “The events have been selected to test a range of different event styles across the country’s major men’s and women’s sports.

    “A number of successful pilots have already been completed, including snooker at the Crucible, cricket at Edgbaston and football at Brighton and Hove Albion.

    “I know how important this is for sports clubs for whom paying spectators are vital. That is why we amended guidance to provide extra clarification for organisers of non-elite sport events to help them manage and admit spectators safely, adhering to social distancing.

    “As stated in my previous response, it is up to the respective governing bodies to determine what constitutes the boundary between elite and non-elite within their sports.

    “In football’s case, the FA’s definition means that only leagues below National League north and south can continue with spectators.

    “However, subject to the successful staging of the pilot programme and the wider public health conditions, we hope to reopen elite sports fixtures including the National League for socially distanced spectators under covid-secure conditions from October 1.

    “We continue to work closely with a whole range of sports to understand the latest thinking that may allow increased numbers of spectators to return.

    “This includes the creation of a new Sports Technology Innovation Working Group of sporting bodies and health experts to analyse new technologies which might support this.”

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