Health pass­port brings sup­port­ers’ re­turn closer

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Premier League - By Ja­son Burt and Mike McGrath

The Pre­mier League is in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent it can in­tro­duce a dig­i­tal health pass­port sys­tem to al­low fans back into sta­di­ums.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion was among the sport­ing bod­ies that met with the Depart­ment for Dig­i­tal, Cul­ture, Me­dia and Sport yes­ter­day to dis­cuss the so-called “stage five” pro­to­cols that cover sup­port­ers at­tend­ing events.

It is hoped that a test event might be staged in Au­gust, or even late this month, to see whether a sys­tem us­ing test­ing and an­ti­body data could give fans a vi­able in­di­vid­ual health pass­port to en­sure they are not car­ry­ing the virus.

The Gov­ern­ment is un­der­stood to be de­lighted with the way the Pre­mier League has or­gan­ised Project Restart. Foot­ball is now ex­pected to put it­self for­ward as the guinea pig for events to per­mit fans to re­turn.

The re­turn of fans will be grad­ual, and lim­ited, although fears that games would have to be played be­hind closed doors un­til the beginning of next year have been al­layed. There is grow­ing op­ti­mism that a num­ber of sup­port­ers may be al­lowed in by the end of Septem­ber.

The change of so­cial-dis­tanc­ing guide­lines from two me­tres to one has been cru­cial, while the big­gest con­cerns will be fans trav­el­ling and get­ting in and out of sta­di­ums. The fact they will be out­doors helps, although there will be wor­ries that they are shout­ing and singing so, for ex­am­ple, there could be an ini­tial re­quire­ment to wear a mask.

Foot­ball is clearly at the van­guard of sport’s re­turn, with more than 20,000 coro­n­avirus tests hav­ing now been ad­min­is­tered dur­ing Project Restart and the last round of test­ing show­ing no pos­i­tive re­sults.

Lower-league clubs, in par­tic­u­lar, are ner­vous about com­mit­ting to the new sea­son with­out know­ing when fans can re­turn, while the is­sue is even af­fect­ing the likes of Manch­ester United in terms of trans­fer bud­gets.

Pre­mier League clubs will dis­cuss the re­turn of fans at their share­hold­ers’ meet­ing today. While tele­vi­sion pro­vides the bulk of rev­enue for top-flight clubs, match­day in­come is sig­nif­i­cant and is hav­ing a di­rect ef­fect on clubs’ spend­ing for the next trans­fer win­dow, with in­ter­me­di­aries be­ing told things will be clearer when next sea­son’s plans are fi­nalised. Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s sta­dium, the new­est in the Pre­mier League, can earn more than £5 mil­lion per match.

United can get al­most 75,000 cus­tomers through the gates for their home games and it is un­der­stood their bud­get will be ad­justed ac­cord­ing to what they can ex­pect fi­nan­cially from 2020-21.

“It’s go­ing to be a strange trans

fer win­dow and I don’t ex­pect a lot of big trans­fers,” said Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer, the United man­ager. “We don’t re­ally know how the mar­ket is go­ing to be.”

United are long-term ad­mir­ers of Jadon San­cho, but Borus­sia Dort­mund’s valu­a­tion of £115 mil­lion for the England for­ward may mean ne­go­ti­a­tions are drawn out.

Richard Mas­ters, the Pre­mier League chief ex­ec­u­tive, has con­firmed talks have started with gov­ern­ment over get­ting fans in their seats. “The Pre­mier League won’t be fully back un­til we get those fans in­side the sta­dium,” Mas­ters said. “We’re very keen to see fans back at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble junc­ture, when it’s safe and ap­pro­pri­ate to do so.”

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