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Government Refuse To Set Timescale For Fans Returning To Stadiums
Monday, 9th Nov 2020 20:45

The government has refused to say when it expects spectators to be allowed back inside sports venues in England and nor will it set out any plans for that return.

Speaking at a parliamentary debate on the issue, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said he wanted it to happen "as soon as it is safe to do so".

But despite requests from MPs, he declined to provide a precise roadmap for the return of supporters to sporting events.

Almost 200,000 people have signed petitions calling for fans to be able to return and whilst it is understandable why the Government will not let fans return during this lockdown, it is frustrating that there seems to be no plans going forward for the moment.

"One of the challenges we've got is… everyone saying 'can I get back to my stadia?'" Huddleston said.

"You times that by multiple levels, multiple leagues and sports, and all of a sudden we've got a whole scale which is far beyond what we believe is acceptable at this moment in time.

"But the point made by several members today, that a 'one size fits all' [approach] may not be appropriate, is something we're looking at.

"A key issue is that this is not just about fans sitting in stands inside the stadia… but we must consider the whole fan journey as well, from home to venue, considering how fans travel to and from stadia, and the risk of gatherings in and out these venues, and a high number of contact points that this risks.

"We do keep a very close eye on what is happening in other countries."

Speaking at a meeting of the cross-party Petitions Committee, Huddleston was asked by Shadow Sports Minister Alison McGovern when government-backed pilots with limited numbers of spectators in attendance may resume.

Plans for a partial and staged return of fans from 1 October were suspended after a rise in the number of coronavirus cases.

However, at the same time London's O2 Arena announced 4,700 people would be able to attend a concert in December.

The Royal Albert Hall will also welcome audiences of up to 2,500 back for a number of concerts this Christmas with one senior source from within football telling BBC Sport: "The inconsistency in the approach is stark and illogical."

McGovern said: "I worry that (sports) have been left hanging a bit.

"The position that football has been put in compared to other large events is hard to understand.

"We were on a journey and the process needs to be completed. So can he say when he anticipates that happening?"

Huddleston replied: "We want to get pilots back and fans back into stadia as soon as possible.

"We've had a plan from very early on in lockdown. And it's been stated and it's out there, and what we've had to do on a couple of occasions unfortunately is press the pause button. But we want to get back to the plan as soon as we can."

Last month the English Football League rejected a £50m bail-out offer from the Premier League. The heads of both organisations, along with the chairman of the Football Association, will appear in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Tuesday.

The Government also seem to be a little miffed that some football clubs have abused the help schemes in place, Tottenham Hotspur for instance borrowed £175 million pounds on a Government Scheme, yes within weeks were spending a large chunk of that money on bringing Gareth Bale to the club from Real Madrid.

That seems to have not been lost on those in power.

"There is plenty of money in football, but it's not distributed in the right way," said Huddleston.

"For the good of the sport, they must come to an arrangement. It's not acceptable for public money to be bailing out elite football.

"I do recognise they each have stakeholders who are difficult to deal with but I do appeal to them to come to a compromise as soon as possible."

The minister said the DCMS was in the "final stages" of discussions with the Treasury over a rescue package for other sports facing an unprecedented financial crisis because of the pandemic.

Photo: Action Images

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underweststand added 10:04 - Nov 10
Admittedly there appear to be fewer problems with outside events (many stadiums are open to the elements) , unlike theatres, cinemas and concert halls, but even if grounds were restricted to 30 or 50% , there is still a major problem with the mass of fans who would be travelling to and from games on trains and buses and creating even greater health hazards than are faced at present. I'm as upset as the next fan to have this situation but aside from the obvious disappointment of missing games, the pandemic is problem-enough already.
We can only hope that this current Covid wave passes over soon and we can return to (whatever normality was) before too long.

A1079 added 10:44 - Nov 10
I realistically assumed that there would be no return this season. I think there is a feint chance of a limited return post Easter given the weather and conditions will be more favourable then and possibly some roll out of a vaccine to the critical and essential may have started by that time but overall I don't expect to be able to watch live football this football calendar year.

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