Exclusive - Premier League clubs have resigned themselves to fans not being allowed to return to stadiums this season amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, even though there had been hope it might be possible to begin partial re-opening in January – or even over Christmas.
Aside from a handful of test events, stadiums have been closed to football fans in the UK since March when the pandemic gripped the country.
Following a significant drop in cases over the summer, October was initially earmarked for limited numbers of supporters to return to stadiums. But alarming rises saw that plan indefinitely postponed and the new England-wide lockdown - until at least 2 December - has brought fresh doubt over when it will be considered safe to-open football stadiums.
90min has been informed by sources at clubs throughout the Premier League that they had asked authorities to work towards allowing fans back in over the Christmas period. But with the new restrictions in place until the start of December and possibly beyond, that is now off the table.
The majority of clubs no longer believe fans will return at all this season – perhaps meaning it could be August 2021 before supporters are back at live games – and are making plans to continue the rest of the campaign without them accordingly.
That means the continued loss of lucrative matchday revenue streams and knock-on financial implications. For clubs further down the football league ladder without the broadcasting and/or commercial revenue enjoyed by Premier League teams that will be even more damaging.
A source at one Premier League club told 90min: “The truth is nobody knows, we would love December and had hoped January, but the situation is changing all the time and now we have to face the reality of the situation. We are starting to look at options for not having fans back this season, and we know we are not alone.”
The issue of fans returning to football will be formally debated in UK parliament on Monday afternoon after a petition calling for it to be allowed garnered close to 200,000 signatures. But things have changed considerably for the worse since the petition was launched in late September.
With all games continuing to be broadcast live in the UK, the Premier League recently opted to scrap the controversial £14.95 price tag for pay-per-view games.
The last round of fixtures over the weekend was the last to have games priced individually at £14.95 and fresh options will be considered during the pause for November international break.
The likeliest outcome, however, is a return to the system that was in place during ‘Project Restart’ and at the start of this season, where all games are screened at no extra cost to existing subscriptions, including free to air broadcasts on BBC and Amazon Prime.
Source : 90min