Premier League clubs may screen other games to al­low fans to re­turn

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Football - chief sports re­porter By Jeremy Wil­son

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.

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