Premier League 'disappointed' after return of supporters to matches postponed

22 September 2020, 15:06

Burnley's Jimmy Dunne (centre left) scores his side's second goal of the game during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium
Burnley's Jimmy Dunne (centre left) scores his side's second goal of the game during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium. Picture: PA

The Premier League has said it is "disappointed that the safe return of supporters to matches has been postponed" in response to the Government's announcement.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a range of restrictions in the House of Commons on Tuesday lunchtime, including those related to mass gatherings.

Spectators had been set to return from the start of next month on a socially distanced basis, with capacities set to be limited to between 25 and 35 per cent.

Read more: Boris Johnson announces Covid-19 curbs that could last up to six months

But the relaxing of rules was halted on Tuesday, dealing a devastating blow to sports clubs across the country, many of whom rely heavily on match-day revenue for survival.

DCMS confirmed all pilot events scheduled for September had been cancelled and the events would be played behind closed doors.

"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," the statement read.

"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."

The English Football League has estimated its clubs will lose a collective £200million without fans in stadiums for the whole of the 2020-21 season.

It is understood Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden will meet with leaders from a range of sports on Tuesday afternoon and while the discussions will move at a fast pace, no conclusions are set to be reached in terms of emergency funding by the end of the day.

Kevin Miles, the chief executive of the Football Supporters' Association, called on government to listen to fans over this issue.

"The FSA has written to the government to stress how important it is that we start to allow fans back into games," he said.

"Feedback from our members at test events has confirmed high levels of compliance with all the health and safety measures put in place, and that they felt safer at games than they have done in many other social situations.

"Having fans at games is of course not only important to the lives of supporters, it is also crucial to the survival of so many clubs who play a crucial role within their communities. A combination of revenue at the ground and government support is urgently needed to keep clubs going. The government has to listen to fans and football clubs on this one."

Julian Knight, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee, expressed his concern at the announcement from Gove.

"If we don't find a route map with smart solutions to allow sports and live events to gradually reopen, we risk decimation of our sporting and cultural infrastructure," he wrote on Twitter.

Speaking in the Commons today, the Prime Minister announced a raft of measures that he said will need to stay in force for “perhaps six months” if needed.

Mr Johnson confirmed:

- People who can to work from home should do so but construction workers, retail staff and people performing essential services should continue to go to work

- From Thursday, pubs, bars and restaurants will be table service only and hospitality venues will be subject to a 10pm closing time.

- Face coverings will be required for retail staff, taxi passengers and hospitality customers except where seated.

- Covid-secure guidelines will become legal obligations for retail, leisure and tourism firms, with businesses facing fines or closure for failing to comply

- From Monday, a maximum of 15 people will be allowed at wedding ceremonies and receptions.

- The rule of six will be extended to cover indoor team sports, such as five-a-side football games.

- Plans to allow business conferences and sporting events from October 1 have been shelved.