Big blow for Premier League clubs as UK government halts plans for fans to return to stadium

UK government has dealt a devastating blow to sport in the country, especially the Premier League by pausing its plans for the partial return of fans to stadiums from October 1 because of the rapid spike in Covid-19 cases.

The decision was taken due to the country’s virus threat assessment, which is upgraded from level three to level four, meaning that it is now ‘high or rising exponentially’ amid an increasing number of daily cases.

The UK chief medical officer yesterday said cases could climb to 50,000 a day if the current trajectory isn’t stopped.

Speaking to the BBC, UK government official Michael Gove was asked about the reintroduction of a small number of fans at sporting venues and here was his answer.

“We were looking at a staged programme of more people returning – it wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans,” Gove said.

“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.

“The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but again it’s in the nature of major sporting events that there’s a lot of mingling.”

The fact that the UK will postpone fan reintroduction will hit the Premier League financially but it will hit the lower leagues harder. Clubs in the third and fourth-tiers rely heavily on fans paying for tickets and they will now need big help from the football and government authorities in the UK to try and stay afloat in the coming months.

With many fearing that they could go the same way as Macclesfield Town, which was wound up last week after a judge was told the football club owe more than £500,000, the UK Prime minister is under pressure to avert the looming crisis in professional and grassroots sport, with a letter signed by the leaders of more than 100 sports organisations – including the Premier League, Football Association, Rugby Football Union and UK Athletics – warning of the risk of a “lost generation” of sport and activity if he fails to act.

The letter urges the government to set up a “comprehensive support package” for the sport and physical sector combining investment, tax incentives, and regulatory reform in order to help clubs, organisations and facilities stabilise and survive.

“We are united in our concern that at a time when our role should be central to the nation’s recovery, the future of the sector is perilous,” the letter states.

“Covid–19 has exposed the fragility of vital services and assets, with sports clubs and fitness facilities facing permanent closure, depriving local communities of facilities and programmes on which they depend.

“Covid-19 has undermined our commercial revenue streams with both stadia and leisure facilities closed or greatly reduced in capacity. The impact of this will potentially lead to a lost generation of sport and activity. In order to play our fullest role, we must survive and stabilise.”