Premier League stadiums will remain closed to supporters next month after the UK government abandoned plans to allow clubs to stage a tentative re-opening of grounds from Oct. 1 following a resurgence of cases of COVID-19.
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All stadiums in the top six divisions in England, covering the Premier League, EFL and National League, have been closed to fans since lockdown measures were imposed due to the pandemic in mid-March.
Low-scale test events at sporting venues in the country, including 2,500 fans attending a preseason friendly between Brighton and Chelsea at the Amex Stadium, have been staged in recent weeks ahead of the anticipated re-opening of grounds at a limit of 30 per cent capacity from Oct 1.
And last week, the Premier League issued a statement urging the government to “remain committed to the Oct. 1 date” due to the “high safety standards in place” at stadiums.
But speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, cabinet office minister Michael Gove said that the Oct. 1 plans will now be paused.
“We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning,” Gove said. “It wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.
“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme, but what we do want to do is to make sure that, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.”
Liverpool’s Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid at Anfield on March 11 was the last major game to be played in front of a full stadium in England and the Liverpool city council has since opened an investigation into whether the fixture caused a spike in COVID-19 infections.
And Gove admitted that question marks raised by the staging of such sporting fixtures early in the pandemic are a factor in the cautious approach now being taken.
“People look back now at the beginning of the pandemic at some of the major sporting events then and ask the question why were they allowed to go ahead,” Gove added.
“What we must do is look at sporting events now with caution but we also recognise that sport is a vital part of this nation.
“We’re looking at everything we can do to support our athletes, our great clubs, through what will be a challenging time.”
Premier League blow for clubs, fans as return to stadiums halted – ESPN