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British sport ruling bodies hold talks with government on return of spectators

Last updated 1 month ago | By Reuters

Football - Champions League - Third Qualifying Round - Ferencvaros v GNK Dinamo Zagreb - Groupama Arena, Budapest, Hungary - September 16, 2020. Ferencvaros fans outside the stadium after the match. [REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo]

British sport chiefs on Wednesday held talks with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden on whether spectators can return to stadiums starting next month.

The government last week restricted pilot events to 1,000 spectators after a rise in COVID-19 cases, and said plans for a controlled return of fans into stadiums from Oct. 1 would be reviewed.

A joint statement from sport bodies, including the Football Association, Premier League, England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the Rugby Football Union, said: "Today we were able to explain our extensive arrangements for how we can manage a controlled return of fans following all relevant public health guidelines.

"We conveyed to the Secretary of State the very serious financial situation now facing our sports, clubs and venues and that we believe we can stage events safely.

"It is clear that if fans cannot return soon that there will be very serious economic implications across our sporting sector."

Other sporting bodies in the talks were the British Horseracing Authority, the Lawn Tennis Association, English Football League (EFL) and Rugby Football League.

The Premier League, which has had no fans at stadiums since last season resumed in June, have written to the government, saying clubs face financial losses of up to 700 million pounds ($907.48 million) if matches continue to be held behind closed doors.

The ECB also hosted each of England's international matches during the home summer without fans in attendance.

The ECB is planning to make 62 positions within the organisation redundant due to the financial impact of the pandemic, with professional cricket in the country sustaining losses of more than 100 million pounds.

The EFL has been cleared to run a pilot scheme this weekend with up to 1,000 fans allowed at each of the selected matches.

Visitors wearing protective face masks pose for a photo through the Olympic rings in front of the National Stadium. July 22, 2020. [REUTERS/Issei Kato]
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