Football's hopes of seeing fans return to stadiums in October have been dashed after the UK government put on hold its decision to allow clubs to host limited numbers of at games, reports www.fcbusiness.co.uk
With the worrying rise in cases of covid-19 across the country, the UK government has moved to impose tighter restrictions on gatherings. At the weekend, ten EFL clubs hosted pilot matches which saw them allow up to 1000 fans into games. However, as cases continue to rise, further trials have now been put on hold.
Clubs in the Premier League and EFL Championship completed last season behind closed doors as part of 'Project Restart' and have begun the new season, along with Leagues One and Two and clubs in Scotland, behind closed doors. However, for many clubs, revenues from gate receipts are their main source of income and the worry is that many will follow Wigan Athletic and Macclesfield Town who have both succumbed to financial pressures as a result of the pandemic in recent weeks.
The news is a blow to fans who were hoping to return to the live stadium environment. Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters' Association, said in a statement: "The FSA has written to the government to stress how important it is that we start to allow fans back into games.
"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."
Premier League CEO, Richard Masters warned that clubs in England's top league faced losing up to £700m if they continue to play behind closed doors this season.
Speaking ahead of the new season, he told the BBC: "We have to get back to fans inside stadia as quickly as possible – that's the big thing that's missing, economic or otherwise – we need fans back inside stadiums for all sorts of reasons and it's the number one priority."