Health passport brings supporters’ return closer
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.”