Warning over re­turn of foot­ball fans

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Rus­sell Lynch

MATCH day foot­ball crowds in Fe­bru­ary and March were linked to higher Covid-19 cases and fa­tal­i­ties be­fore spec­ta­tors were banned, a study by econ­o­mists has found.

Aca­demics at As­ton Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Read­ing an­a­lysed out­breaks af­ter 1,249 league and cup games across the top eight tiers of English foot­ball.

They found there were six ex­tra Covid-19 cases per 100,000 peo­ple in ar­eas where games took place, as well as two ad­di­tional deaths. Foot­ball has been played be­hind closed doors since the lock­down, but League Two club Cam­bridge United is pre­par­ing to host the first pro­fes­sional game in front of a crowd for five months un­der a pi­lot scheme tonight.

Econ­o­mists Matthew Ol­czak,

James Reade and Matthew Yeo found the big­gest im­pact was trig­gered by teams play­ing away in March, po­ten­tially due to sup­port­ers trav­el­ling to­gether to fix­tures on pub­lic trans­port in larger groups.

The au­thors said: “Our re­sults sug­gest cau­tion in re­turn­ing to un­re­stricted spec­ta­tor at­ten­dance at matches.” Cam­bridge United will host just 1,000 spec­ta­tors tonight.

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