Premier League chief executive says sport is being treated UNFAIRLY with the O2 Arena letting in 4,700 fans and 3,000 allowed at the Royal Albert Hall – while football supporters are locked out with no date for their return
- Richard Masters has claimed sport is being treated unfairly by the Government
- Stadiums are still closed to supporters while arts venues are allowed to re-open
- Football arenas have been closed to spectators because of Covid-19 since March
- Plans to welcome back fans on October 1 were axed because of a rise in cases
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has hit out at the Government over their contradictory rules that allow crowds into concert venues but not football stadiums.
Rising coronavirus cases in England and Wales saw the proposed return of football supporters to grounds on October 1 shelved by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
That return, running at a reduced capacity, was expected to provide much-needed financial relief to clubs struggling due to the shutout of supporters since March because of the pandemic.
Premier League chief Richard Masters thinks sport is being treated unfairly by the Government
Premier League games have continued to go ahead behind-closed-doors without any fans
But the arts sector was moved to stage four by the Government in August, which allowed reduced, socially distanced crowds permitted at indoors and outdoors events.
It has been announced recently that 4,700 spectators can attend London’s O2 Arena for a concert in December and a crowd of 57 per cent capacity will be allowed at the Royal Albert Hall for events around Christmas.
That has angered Premier League clubs, who have been told to work on the plan that fans may not be able to take their seats in grounds until March.
There has also been exasperation that spectators can attend indoor venues but outdoor stadiums are still deemed unsafe.
Masters also expressed the Premier League’s anger that they are being expected to bailout the rest of the English football pyramid, while being unable to boost their own incomes through spectators.
In an interview with The Times, Masters said: ‘We do understand why caution is needed but what we are asking for is consistency from Government so that sport is treated as fairly as other activities.
‘We are a highly regulated environment. We have the Sports Grounds Safety Authority in place to ensure that supporters are safe at all times and we’re outdoors in a highly stewarded environment.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled the original October 1 return date for fans to return
The Royal Albert Hall have announced a Covid-secure programme is to be run over Christmas
‘What we really need is clarity for our clubs and supporters and a road map from government.
‘Clubs feel they have been hit with a quadruple whammy — firstly that the optimism of October 1 has been taken away; secondly that there will be a sports bailout but that it wouldn’t include football; thirdly that the Premier League will be expected to secure the future of the EFL while dealing with the implications of having no fans until possibly March; finally the opening up of entertainment arenas within sometimes a couple of miles of football grounds without any road map for the return of football supporters.’
Masters believes the exile of supporters is costing English football a staggering £100million a month.
He also revealed the Premier League has been in contact with Germany’s Bundesliga to discover more about their protocols for fans returning and insisted clubs would be willing to tailor crowds depending on local infection rates.
Stadiums in Germany are allowed to open to 20 per cent of their capacity if local cases are less than 35 cases per 100,000.
Just over 11,500 supporters watched Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 victory against Freiburg on Saturday. Meanwhile, the ongoing French Open in Paris is also allowing 1,000 spectators at Roland Garros.
Brighton held a successful test event in August but fans are still now allowed through turnstiles
Rigorous planning and guidance must also be followed to allow fans to return and clubs have gone to great expense to prepare their stadiums.
Earlier this week the Premier League called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the rest of Government to show consistency in decisions made over spectators in an open letter.
‘We will continue to urge Government to allow us to return fans safely to stadiums,’ the letter, which was signed by Masters, David Baldwin, EFL Chief Executive, Mark Bullingham, FA Chief Executive and Kelly Simmons, FA Director of Women’s Professional Game, read.
‘It is positive progress that major arts and music venues have been told they can run socially-distanced events indoors. And now football should be allowed to do the same – in highly regulated and stewarded outdoor environments.
‘We are determined to identify a path forward with Government. We need clarity for our clubs and for you as supporters as to what the roadmap for change in this area looks like.
‘We all know why caution is needed, and we ask Government for consistency in their policy so sport is treated as fairly as other activities currently allowed to welcome spectators.’
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