The FA have confirmed they are hoping to “start having crowds back” for football games from as early as September, following the latest plans from the UK government.
Liverpool will be back for the first of the final nine Premier League fixtures on Sunday night, the Merseyside derby, which will be held at an empty Goodison Park.
The remainder of the 2019/20 campaign will be played behind closed doors as part of the government’s return-to-play guidelines in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the English top flight are already in talks with government officials regarding a return to at least partial attendance, with culture secretary Oliver Dowden hopeful fans will be able to return at the start of next season.
“I would really hope that by the return of the new season we might be in a position whereby some fans could start to return to stadiums,” he said at Wednesday’s daily briefing.
“I know that would be another important part of restoring the financial position of clubs.”
Though they are not one of those severely impacted by the loss of matchday revenue to the point of collapse, Liverpool were forced to pull out of a £50 million deal to sign Timo Werner from RB Leipzig due to a major setback in their finances.
It is an unwelcome reality for all clubs, and the restoration of fans at grounds will go to a great length to helping those most troubled by the monetary loss of coronavirus.
The FA’s chief executive Mark Bullingham projected a similar timeline to Dowden, who added that due to the “outdoor element” of football stadia, the return of fans could come sooner than mass gatherings at indoor venues like theatres.
“When we look ahead to September, we are hoping we are in a very different situation than we are now as a country, and we hope at some point we can start having crowds back,” Bullingham said.
“We’re looking at loads of options; we’re even getting people to map out what traffic flows [of spectators] look like in stadia, explore what it could look like with one-metre, two-metre social distancing and so on.”
It has already been reported that the prospect of ‘COVID-19 passports‘ has been presented to the government, which would allow swift tests on supporters hoping to attend a game in order to be given access pending a negative result.
Whether this is how the Premier League moves forward remains to be seen, but those involved are exploring every possibility to ensure the return of supporters at games as soon as possible.