The Premier League’s 2019-20 season resumes later today, with officials stating that talks are taking place over returning fans to stadia, despite most clubs already issuing refunds.
The Premier League has been suspended since March 13, but its return was given the green light last month with Aston Villa to take on Sheffield United at 6pm GMT before Manchester City hosts Arsenal at 8:15pm GMT.
Most Premier League clubs issued full refunds to fans for tickets and season tickets after it was confirmed that matches would take place behind closed doors.
With 92 games remaining in the season, the league will see approximately 3.62 million tickets go unsold during the behind closed door model, based on an average attendance of 39,300.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters did not give a timeframe for the closed doors model to end, but said talks have commenced with the government. He told BBC Sport: “The Premier League is back but it won’t be fully back until we get those fans back inside the stadium. We’re very keen to see fans back in the stadium at the earliest possible juncture when it’s safe and appropriate to do so.”
Meanwhile, Masters warned that fans congregating outside stadia would be putting the traditional home and away model at risk.
He added: “It is a big moment because it’s unprecedented and it will feel different because we haven’t got fans inside the stadium. But whilst it’ll feel different, hopefully what’s riding on the games, the quality of the football and the passion, some of the Premier League will still come through.”
Neutral venues had been mooted for several games due to safety and security concerns.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said there would be “implications” if fans ignored advice to stay away from grounds. “We have had this long debate of whether we have neutral stadia versus home games and I think neutral comes back on the cards if we can’t manage local crowds,” he said.
Huddleston said fans attending games represents the final move on the government’s five-step plan for the resumption of elite sport.
“The key step there is the social distancing measures that need to be in place,” he added. “In terms of getting the green light, it will absolutely be driven by medical advice at the time in terms of social distancing and large gatherings.”
Meanwhile, the League has detailed the full plans in place to enhance the fan experience of closed doors games for those watching at home.
At all 20 Premier League stadiums, there will be a wrap covering seats in the lower tiers. These stadium wraps will be designed by each club and will aim to improve the environment both visually and acoustically, as well as creating consistency across the competition.
For the first time, fans will be able to listen in to the coin toss featuring the two captains and the match officials, as the audio will now be captured live. Clubs can use music at key trigger moments such as kick-off, goals and substitutions by the home club, but not while the ball is in play.
Fans watching from home will be able to enhance their viewing experience by selecting EA Sports Atmospheric Audio. This will give them crowd noise during the match recorded for EA from the teams’ fans in previous live matches.
At many matches there will be the chance for players to see the fans, as live video feeds featuring 16 supporters from each club will be made available to broadcasters and to clubs for use on big screens. Where feasible at stadiums, broadcasters will identify a celebration camera that players can head to after scoring.
In the build-up to matches, supporters will get to see what happens in the tunnel as there will be fixed cameras in place to watch the players prepare for the match. However, these feeds will not include sound.
A number of Premier League clubs have also detailed their own ventures in recent weeks.
Image: Cléria De Souza