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Premier League warns limited return of fans will lead to losses

The Premier League has welcomed the UK Government’s new plans to welcome a limited number of fans back to stadiums, but warns that clubs will be operating matches at a financial loss.

Fans will be allowed back in English stadiums from next week as part of guidelines that will be based on the government’s new tiered lockdown system.

The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), confirmed yesterday (Monday) that 4,000 fans, or 50 per cent of the stadium capacity – whichever is lower – will be allowed in Tier 1 areas.

In Tier 2 areas, the attendance cap has been set at 2,000, or 50 per cent of the stadium capacity. Indoor sporting events and fixtures in Tier 1 and Tier 2 will be able to host a maximum of 1,000 fans, or 50 per cent of capacity.

In Tier 3 areas, fans will not be permitted to attend elite sporting fixtures, in line with hospitality venues and other large event venues being closed. In these areas, elite sport will continue behind closed doors.

The Premier League said in response: “Our ambition remains to work with the Government to increase attendance to more substantial levels. Until this can be done, many fans will be unable to attend games and our clubs will continue to operate matches at a financial loss.

“Our priority continues to be the agreement of a roadmap, with DCMS and the Sports Technology and Innovation Group, for pilot events that can help our clubs quickly scale up to larger capacities in line with the Sports Ground Safety Authority’s COVID-secure guidelines and beyond.”

The League also said its clubs have “high-biosecurity standards” and state it can play a part in supporting the development of the Government’s rapid turnaround testing initiative.

The government is set to announce on Thursday which areas will fall into each tier of the new lockdown system, which will be introduced next week.

Roy Hodgson, the manager of Crystal Palace, who lost to Burnley last night, expressed sympathy for club officials tasked with navigating the demand for tickets exceeding supply, adding: “It’s a very positive step, I’m grateful we’re moving in that direction. Hopefully it will be a first step in the aim of getting fans into the stadium for real – in the numbers that normally attend the games.”

Chelsea added that it continues to work on plans to accommodate as many fans as possible, “as fairly as possible, and we appreciate supporter patience as we do so.”

Meanwhile, Premiership Rugby chief executive, Darren Childs, supported the news, calling it a “welcome boost” for Premiership Rugby clubs and the wider sports sector.

He said in statement: “Our clubs have proved that when it is safe to do so they can bring fans back safely, with very successful pilot events at Harlequins and Gloucester Rugby.

“We won’t know the exact impact on our clubs until the tiers are announced on Thursday, so my team stands ready to work with Government to tackle the challenges of fan attendance in a way that minimises health risks.

“Keeping the league intact has been my number one priority during the pandemic and now we have the foundations from which to grow the game and build longer-term financial stability.”

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