UK Government responds to petition calling for fans to be allowed back into stadiums which received approximately 200,000 signatures

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 21: (BILD ZEITUNG OUT) general view inside the stadium with 3000 supporters prior to the UEFA Champions League Group A stage match between RB Salzburg and Lokomotiv Moskva at Red Bull Arena on October 21, 2020 in Salzburg, Austria. (Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Not yet

Witnessing Red Bull Salzburg’s 2-2 draw against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League was surreal. Strangely, this was because fans were allowed into the stadium.

UK viewers of the sport have essentially become accustomed to artificial crowd noise at this point, making hearing the genuine thump of drums and cheers of passion almost new again.

Seeing how other countries have successfully integrated fans back into grounds has led many to question why the UK is yet to do so. A petition which has now racked up nearly 200,000 signatures was recently issued, calling for fans to return.

Due to the large support for the movement, the Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has issued a response, as follows:

‘We will take the earliest opportunity to look again at getting spectators safely back into stadia but this must clearly be done carefully against the prevailing health conditions.’

‘Football clubs form the bedrock of our communities and play a vital role in the local economy. Their importance has been clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic with clubs at all levels providing incredible support to their area.’

‘That is why the Government is committed to supporting sports clubs up and down the country, with many football clubs benefitting from the Government’s unprecedented financial support to businesses.’

‘The Government is fully aware of the importance of getting spectators back into stadia for many sports, and the financial consequences of the decision not to allow this from 1 October. The evidence received from the Chief Medical Officer was very clear that at a time of rapidly rising infections, and when the Government was considering restrictions elsewhere, it was not the right time to undertake any further easements.’

‘We will continue to work closely with a whole range of sports to understand the latest thinking that might allow spectators to return. This includes the creation of a new Sports Technology Innovation Working Group of sporting bodies and health experts to analyse new technologies which might support this. This will supplement the draft government guidance, and the SGSA supplementary guidance to their Green Guide, which has been internationally welcomed.’

‘We are committed to getting spectators back into stadia as soon as it is safe to do so.’

Postponed

Based on this statement, it appears as though it will still be some time before fans return to stadiums. The initial date suggested for fans to return came at the start of October, but this has of course since been postponed.

“We must revise plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month and review our intention to return audiences to stadiums from 1 October,” said the Prime Minister.

“But that doesn’t mean we are going to scrap the programme entirely. We are just going to have to review it and abridge it.”

The words “review” and “abridge” provided a semblance of hope, but with cases of the coronavirus increasing with each passing day in the UK, it appears unlikely that fans will be returning to grounds any time soon.

The issues do not simply lie with being present in the stadium itself. Other factors to take into account include – the increase on public transport to games, possible influx of fans using pubs and restaurants, and potential complications with the new tiered system in different regions.

See also: Leyton Orient vs Spurs postponed / Premier League responds to government decision to delay the return of fans

Mesut Ozil responds to Premier League squad omission / The facts over Arsenal’s lack of inclusion remain unclear


This article was edited by Conor Laird.

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