No fans until the New Year? More delays looming and clubs face financial chaos after the Premier League delayed test events this month due to government crackdown
- The Premier League will push the government again on letting fans into grounds
- This comes despite the deferral of top flight test events due to new limitations
- There is now pessimism that fans will be back in grounds in October as planned
- The crackdown saw test events deferred and deemed not economically viable
The Premier League will continue to push the Government to allow fans into grounds next month despite the deferral of Premier League test events this month due to new limitations.
But one industry source familiar with the talks between Government and clubs said they were now ‘pessimistic’ that fans will be back in October, as previously planned, and indeed fearful that it will now be 2021 before any fans are allowed back in significant numbers.
That could cause financial meltdown for many EFL clubs, where TV money is limited, and will even stretch Premier League clubs, leading to fresh calls for cuts to player wages. Last week’s toughening on socialising numbers, now limited to six by the Government from Monday, also saw a limit of 1,000 spectators imposed on test events for sports fans.
The Premier League will push the government again to allow fans into grounds next month
The Premier League responded by deferring their tests, saying that the limit meant events were neither economically viable nor would they be an effective gauge of whether they could host 15,000 fans.
Industry insiders now fear that as the test events have been cancelled, there is very little prospect of the October 1 date being met for return of fans in the Premier League.
It is possible that Leagues One and Two, with smaller crowds, may be better placed to have fans back.
Last week’s toughening on socialising numbers saw a limit of 1,000 fans at test events imposed
The Premier League has responded by deferring their tests, saying that the limit was not viable
But if the October date is missed, it would then be unlikely that a significant amount of fans would be admitted in November and December, as winter approaches and people are forced to socialise indoors, increasing the threat of exposure to the coronavirus.
All parties acknowledge that the next fortnight is crucial and if the disease continues to increase exponentially, then the return of fans will be delayed again and that it will be harder to make the case for a return in mid-winter.
Though clubs knew revenue would be considerably down this season because of limitations on crowds, there had been a hope that only September would be behind closed doors and that as much as 30 per cent of some major stadia could be occupied by October.
There was hope that as much as 30 per cent of major stadia would be occupied by October
Karren Brady, vice-chairwoman at West Ham, wrote in her newspaper column: ‘We had expected at least a quarter of our stadiums would be full by October 1. Now, in the light of increased virus infections, restrictions might well be tightened further.
‘Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said this week the Premier League lost £700m in revenue due to last season’s pandemic crisis. This averages at about £35m for each club.
‘Should we lose a similar amount if full stadiums are not allowed for three or four months, then even the richest Premier League clubs – whose gate income alone is £100m a year – will take a hard look at the future. The pressures are relentless.’
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