Premier League warns of devastating effect of delay reopening stadiums


The sun illuminates the empty stands before the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at the Villa Park stadium in Birmingham, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. (Tim Goode/Pool via AP)

LONDON — The English Premier League warned of the devastating financial impact on clubs as supporters faced being locked out of games for another six months after new pandemic restrictions were imposed by the government on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson put on hold plans to allow the phased return of spectators into sporting venues in England from Oct. 1 because of a spike in coronavirus cases.

“We are disappointed that the safe return of supporters to matches has been postponed,” the Premier League said in a statement.

Pilot test events have been held across sports venues with capacity restricted at 1,000. But the new Premier League started this month in empty stadiums, with fans last allowed into games in March before last season’s 100-day shutdown.

“Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them,” the Premier League said. “Last season, Premier League clubs suffered 700 million pounds ($897 million) in losses and at present, our national game is losing more than 100 million pounds ($128 million) per month. This is starting to have a devastating impact on clubs and their communities.”

Senior medical officers have recommended Britain’s COVID-19 alert level be moved from three to four, meaning transmission is “high or rising exponentially,” and one level below lockdown.

But the Premier League still hopes the government will find a way of safely opening up stadiums to supporters again based on protocols already formulated.

“Fans in stadiums will be as safe or even safer than at any other public activity currently permitted,” the Premier League said. “This is already evident in other European leagues. We are confident that Premier League clubs, using innovative ways to get supporters safely back into grounds, will enable revenues to return to all levels of the game, as well as maintain solidarity arrangements, current tax contributions and financial support for local and national economies.”

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