British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that football fans will not be returning to stadiums on October 1 – ending hopes Premier League and English Football League grounds would be able to open begin the phased reopening of grounds at between 25 per cent and 35 per cent capacity.
The UK’s nationwide rise in coronavirus cases has led to a change of plans, which comes as disastrous news for top-flight and EFL clubs who have lost out on millions of pounds of gate receipt income.
It has been suggested that EFL clubs will lose around £200m collectively if fans do not return to stadiums before the end of the 2020-21 campaign, which could spell financial ruin for many.
And it had been hoped that grounds would be able to open to fans at a reduced capacity with social-distancing guidelines in place.
Discussions between sports governing bodies and the government are expected over the next few days to discuss the next step.
Announcing new restrictions in the House of Commons on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said: “We have to acknowledge that the spread of the virus is now affecting our ability to reopen business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events.
“So we will not be able to do this from October 1 and I recognise the implications for our sports clubs which are the life and soul of our communities, and my right honourable friends the Chancellor and the Culture Secretary are working urgently on what we can do now to support them.”
Included in the raft of new restrictions was making face masks compulsory for bar staff, shop workers, waiters and taxi drivers as well as increased fine for failing to do so.
While the guidelines that state people must only meet in groups of six or less has been extended to indoor sports teams too.
Johnson added: “We will spare no effort in developing vaccines, treatments, new forms of mass-testing but unless we palpably make progress we should assume that the restrictions that I have announced will remain in place for perhaps six months.
“For the time being, this virus is a fact of our lives and I must tell the house and the country that our fight against it will continue.
“I want to stress that this is by no means a return to the full lockdown of March. We’re not issuing a general instruction to stay at home.
“We will ensure that schools, colleges, universities stay open because nothing is more important than the education, health and well-being of our young people.
“We will ensure businesses can stay open in a COVID-compliant way. However we must take action to suppress the disease.”
Seven EFL stadiums had last week hosted test events across with crowds of 1,000, while Brighton’s pre-season friendly with Chelsea had 2,524 spectators as the first match to welcome back fans since a ban on mass gatherings was put in place in March.
It is not clear when plans to allow crowds back in will be entertained again but the longer they are on pause, the more financial aid it seems the government will have to offer to Premier League – but particularly EFL – clubs.
MORE TO COME