When can football supporters return to stadiums? Government exploring potential of return before Christmas

Wednesday 18th November 2020 08:30 GMT

Constructive talks are ongoing between the culture secretary Oliver Dowden and football bosses, but no date for the return of fans has been agreed.

The situation will be further assessed in the run-up to December 2, when lockdown restrictions are due to end in England.

The UK government hosted a virtual summit on Tuesday lunchtime over the future of English football, which included the FA, Premier League, English Football League, Kick It Out and other fan groups.

Culture secretary Dowden described the one-hour talks as "'positive".

The Premier League has previously expressed disappointment over further delay on fans returning to games.

On September 22, the Premier League said they were "certain… fans in stadiums will be as safe or even safer than any other public activity currently permitted".

On October 6, the FA, Premier League and EFL said in an open letter to fans they were, "… fully committed to your safe return to football grounds as soon as possible".

"Constructive conversation with football leaders on governance & £, diversity & getting fans back," Dowden posted on Twitter.

"I want to work together with football to make progress on important issues for the game's long-term future. Discussions to continue as we start our fan-led review of governance."

Fans back in December?

Analysis by Bryan Swanson, Chief Reporter, Sky Sports News:

Could we see supporters return to games in England next month? It's not been dismissed out of hand but it's not been approved either.

Put simply, nobody in government wants to give anything the green light during a second national lockdown.

The situation is too fluid, too unpredictable, and there must be analysis of the tier systems before any decision on whether fans can return to matches.

Remember, we hoped fans would return to games in early October before a new wave of coronavirus cases.

Patience is the key and the government will assess the situation in the run-up to December 2, when restrictions are due to end in England.

The FA, Premier League and EFL wrote an open letter to supporters in October and stressed they were, "fully committed to your safe return as soon as possible".

The game wants, and needs, fans back in stadiums as soon as it is safe to do so.

Football believes it is ready but it must receive government approval.

There were encouraging signs at Windsor Park in Belfast last week, where around 600 Northern Ireland fans entered through disinfection pods to watch their UEFA play-off final against Slovakia.

The Treasury has been asked to support clubs in financial difficulty, but more work needs to be done to ensure football is not treated any differently to other businesses in distress.

Sky Sports News has been told there were talks over the redistribution of parachute payments to clubs relegated to the Championship each season, a model robustly defended by the Premier League.

Tuesday's summit also discussed tackling social media abuse, diversity, equality and inclusivity in the game.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, has received praise from some figures in the game for bringing a range of different voices to the table in today's first virtual summit.

This has been an extraordinary year, on and off the pitch, and football must come together like never before.

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