The Premier League has vowed to have full stadiums “as soon as possible” following a successful test event at Brighton & Hove Albion at the weekend and has joined the government’s new sport innovation group to make it happen.
Brighton’s 30,000-capacity Amex Stadium held 2,500 supporters on Saturday in their 1-1 friendly draw with Chelsea, the first Premier League ground to host fans since football was halted by the coronavirus back in March.
The stadium had socially distanced seating and those in attendance had temperature checks and wore masks entering or moving around the stadium.
The government aim to have fans back in stadiums at matches by the start of October, but it will depend on how the virus impacts the country during the next month.
“Brighton & Hove Albion did a fantastic job at their test event for the return of supporters and it was great to see fans in a Premier League stadium for the first time since March,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said.
“The success of having 2,500 supporters in the Amex was very encouraging and we are committed to having full stadia as soon as possible, with safety always our priority.
We are working hard alongside our clubs, the government and the safety authorities to achieve this.”
Some of the innovative ideas mooted to get stadiums full again include using tracking devices to ensure fans socially distance from one another and fluorescent disinfectants to show how often surfaces are touched. Health passports linked to smartphones could also be used to ensure tickets are sold only to fans who have tested negative for Covid-19 in a certain timeframe.
The team responsible for debating and devising how to safely return fans to stadiums, headed by secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden, include representatives from the Premier League and English Cricket Board, as well as technology and medical experts, including deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van Tam.
The Premier League is very pleased to be involved in the Sport Tech Innovation Group,” Masters said. ”We know, through the success of delivering Project Restart last season, that Premier League clubs can provide safe environments and we are looking forward to welcoming back supporters to all our grounds as quickly as possible.”