Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced crowds could return to sports stadiums in the United Kingdom from October subject to successful pilot events.
Sports events have taken place without crowds in attendance since March because of the risk of spreading coronavirus.
But laying out the next steps in lifting lockdown on Friday morning, Johnson said: ‘From 1 August, we will restart indoor performance to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia, with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.
‘From October, we intend to bring back audiences in stadia. Again, these changes must be done in a Covid-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said crowds could return to sports stadiums from October
Premier League fixtures have been taking place behind closed doors since football returned last month. Pictured is Wednesday night’s Arsenal vs Liverpool game at the Emirates Stadium
It raises the possibility that only the first month of the 2020-21 football season will be played out behind closed doors, with supporters allowed back in the autumn.
The pilot events – which would see a limited number of spectators admitted to stadiums with social distancing rules observed – could begin as early as next month.
Sportsmail reported last week that Premier League clubs have informed fans they expect they’ll be able to return to attend matches early next season.
Premier League clubs are already canvassing fans to gauge opinion on a return to stadiums. Some of the key issues on which clubs are looking for feedback from fans are:
- How to fairly distribute tickets if, as expected, capacities are reduced
- Whether fans would be happy to disclose their health details
- How they would travel to games and if they would feel safe taking public transport to matches
- Whether season-ticket holders would be satisfied with not sitting in their normal seats
Football fans will be hopeful of returning to stadiums early during the 2020-21 season
The Test match between England and West Indies is ongoing without fans at Old Trafford
The arrival and departure of supporters is emerging as a big issue as clubs look to implement measures to ensure their safety.
Clubs are exploring the possibility of issuing staggered arrival and departure times for fans during the opening phase of allowing them back into grounds.
Other sports to have taken place behind closed doors in the UK include Test cricket matches between England and West Indies, snooker tournaments at Milton Keynes and horse racing meets.
The potential for fans to return to stadiums will come as a financial lifeline for EFL and non-league football clubs who rely on gate receipts and matchday income for a large proportion of their revenue.
Likewise, clubs will not feel more confidence selling season tickets to fans for next season.