Sport

Premier League may BLOCK fanatics from attending video games at the ultimate day over carrying integrity fears

The Premier League could block supporters from attending matches on the final day of the season due to concerns over sporting integrity. 

As part of Boris Johnson‘s announcement on Monday regarding a roadmap out of lockdown, up to 10,000 fans or 25 per cent of a stadium’s capacity (whichever is smallest) could attend sporting events from May 17. 

That would make the final day of the Premier League season – May 23 – as marking the return of supporters inside football stadiums. 

The Premier League has yet to decide whether fans will be allowed back in, however, with ‘clubs to be consulted on sporting integrity issues.’

It is not guaranteed that fans will be back in for Fulham's game against Newcastle on May 23

It is not guaranteed that fans will be back in for Fulham’s game against Newcastle on May 23 

Fans were banned from stadiums in March 2020, and returned briefly before lockdown three

THE NEW LIMITS FROM MAY 17 

From May 17, indoor venues will be allowed to admit up to a maximum of 1,000 spectators, or half their capacity if that figure is lower.

For outdoor events, there will be a maximum of 4,000 fans allowed, or half a venue’s capacity (whichever figure is lower). 

However, at the biggest stadiums, with a capacity above 16,000, such as Wembley and Premier League football grounds, a maximum of 10,000 fans will be allowed, or a quarter of capacity (whichever figure is lower). 

Final-day games include Fulham hosting Newcastle at Craven Cottage, which could well prove to be a relegation-decider – three points currently separate the two sides. 

Other notable games include Leicester hosting Tottenham where European football for both clubs could be on the line while Manchester City – currently 10 points clear at the top of the league – could lift the Premier League trophy at home to Everton with fans inside the Etihad Stadium.  

However, there are concerns that supporters being allowed in for just the final day could give an unfair advantage to teams playing at home, particularly if away teams have had no fans inside their own stadium all season.  

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, the Prime Minister revealed plans for a cautious return of supporters to attend top level sport in time for the last round of Premier League fixtures, the European Championships, Wimbledon and the Rugby League World Cup, among other stellar events in the nation’s summer of sport.   

From May 17, indoor venues will be allowed to admit up to a maximum of 1,000 spectators, or half their capacity if that figure is lower.

For outdoor events, there will be a maximum of 4,000 fans allowed, or half a venue’s capacity (whichever figure is lower).

The Premier League (led by chief executive Richard Masters) will consult with clubs

The Premier League (led by chief executive Richard Masters) will consult with clubs

However, at the biggest stadiums, with a capacity above 16,000, such as Wembley and Premier League football grounds, a maximum of 10,000 fans will be allowed, or a quarter of capacity (whichever figure is lower). 

The roadmap document said: ‘The Government will also make a special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25 per cent of total seated capacity, whichever is lower.

‘In addition, pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing.’ 

While clubs and top-flight officials are thrilled at the prospect of supporters coming back to stadiums, the timing raises a challenge for the integrity of the competition and has left the Premier League with a headache.

Manchester City host Everton on the final day of the Premier League season on May 23

Manchester City host Everton on the final day of the Premier League season on May 23

League officials fully expect clubs to the raise the matter with them, since so much is riding on the last round of games, but they stress nothing has been decided.

The Premier League has consulted clubs on each step in response to the pandemic, and this issue will be no different.

There is currently no date fixed for the next shareholders’ meeting, but the item will no doubt be on the agenda when it is scheduled.

In the event that there is no consensus, it is expected that clubs wanting to challenge the return of fans would have to push for a vote, and 16 clubs would be needed to carry the motion.

However, in the end it may be academic since the roadmap out of lockdown stresses the return of fans – and all other easing of Covid restrictions – depends upon falling infections rates, hospitalisations and deaths resulting from the virus and continued roll-out of the vaccine.

If these conditions are not met, fans will not be allowed to attend any event. 

PREMIER LEAGUE – FINAL-DAY GAMES, SUNDAY MAY 23 

Arsenal vs Brighton 

Aston Villa vs Chelsea 

Fulham vs Newcastle Utd

Leeds vs West Brom 

Leicester vs Tottenham 

Liverpool vs Crystal Palace 

Manchester City vs Everton 

Sheffield United vs Burnley 

West Ham Utd vs Southampton 

Wolves vs Manchester United  

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