Premier League clubs may screen other games to allow fans to return
Premier League clubs will consider screening other matches before and after their own live games, as well as additional stadium entertainment, as part of proposals to convince the Government that fans can safely return.
A working group has been set up to liaise with the sports ground safety authority to consider how the Covid-19 risk could be mitigated with fans back inside stadiums and key to that will be spreading their arrival and departure times.
There are also discussions about the viability of additional parking, increased public transport and the better use of outdoor spaces that surround stadiums.
There is an acceptance that every stadium will have its own challenges and solutions that would need to be locally approved, but some of the more significant changes would require external help or approval.
Clubs want the Government to review whether fans can take drinks to their seats to avoid the usual pre-match and half-time crowding issues around concourses. They could also ask fans to arrive and depart at staggered points during the day – and consideration is being given to stadium entertainment or even the live screening of other matches either before kick-off or after the full-time whistle.
The potential for fully digital ticketing and cashless payments
also been explored. Although guidance has already been issued for how social distancing could work inside stadiums – with grounds around 30 per cent full and at least a seat or row between “bubbles” of fans – a major concern remains the crowding of public transport to and from matches.
This would also largely have to be addressed locally, but clubs want the chance to present plans for how they could ensure a reduced number of fans arrive in a way that avoids crowding.
Clubs have told the Government that getting supporters back to games is not just critical to the football economy but also many associated suppliers and ultimately entire local communities.
The Government cancelled several pilots last week following the brief return of fans in cricket and snooker, but there is hope that a limited number could be back during October.
Particular concerns have also been raised about the more vocal nature of football supporters and whether there should be research into whether coronavirus would be spread more easily while people are singing, chanting or shouting.
Although the Premier League derives the vast majority of its income from its broadcast partners, many clubs in the English Football League and non-League are not financially viable until fans can return to watch sport in person.