Premier League authorities insist they are ‘certain’ that a staged return for fans is ‘safe’ as the government pauses plans to allow supporters back inside sporting stadia.
The government has released its latest guidelines as the UK continues to deal with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, with plans for spectators to return to live sporting events next month having been postponed amid rising cases.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, spoke of the needs to prevent the further spread of infection amongst a host of new guidelines, with the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove insisting ‘the nature of major sporting events’ means that plans for fans to return must be delayed for now.
“We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans,” Gove told the BBC.
“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.
“The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling.”
The Premier League has released a statement following the government’s announcement and most recent guidelines, outlining their disappointment with the decision to postpone a staged return of spectators.
The statement reads that the authorities are ‘certain’ that the measures put in place would make the prospect of fans in stadiums ‘as safe or even safer’ than any other public activity currently permitted, and warned against the ‘unsustainable’ nature of the football economy in the continued absence of supporters.
“The Premier League notes the government’s announcement today and while the health of the nation must remain everyone’s priority, we are disappointed that the safe return of supporters to matches has been postponed,” a statement reads.
“The Premier League is certain that, through League-wide guidelines and a code of conduct developed with scientific experts and agreed by the government’s Sports Ground Safety Authority, fans in stadiums will be as safe or even safer than at any other public activity currently permitted. This is already evident in other European leagues.
“Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them. Last season, Premier League clubs suffered £700m in losses and at present, our national game is losing more than £100m per month. This is starting to have a devastating impact on clubs and their communities.
“We are confident that Premier League clubs, using innovative ways to get supporters safely back into grounds, will enable revenues to return to all levels of the game, as well as maintain solidarity arrangements, current tax contributions and financial support for local and national economies.
“While there is a current pause in a date for fans returning to sports venues, the Premier League and our clubs will not slow down in our preparations for providing safe, bio-secure environments. We will continue to work with government to bring supporters safely back into grounds as soon as possible.”