UK prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed plans to ‘pilot’ the return of fans to sport from August 1, “with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.”
The Premier League resumed last month with a very different complexion, with all games played behind closed doors to avoid risk of spreading coronavirus.
Players and staff are all tested regularly, and with the campaign due to wrap up before the end of the month there have been no major setbacks, while outside of football public activity edges closer to normality.
While pubs, restaurants and bars have reopened, restrictions currently remain on sport and theatre, due to the increased risk with mass gatherings.
But speaking at a press conference on Friday morning, the prime minister confirmed that “pilots” will begin on August 1 to test safety measures for the return of fans to sport.
“From August 1, we will restart indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots,” he explained.
“And we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia, with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.
“From October we intend to bring back audiences in stadia.
“Again these changes must be done in a COVID-secure way, subject to the successful outcome of pilots.”
The Premier League season will be over by the end of July, meaning there will be no fans in the remaining games, but this does open up the opportunity of crowds for the FA Cup final.
That will be held, fittingly, on August 1, and given the significance of the fixture in the history of English football it may be deemed a symbolic starting point for the return of supporters.
That remains to be seen, however, with current test events confirmed in cricket and snooker, likely due to the more manageable nature of those crowds.
From there, though, it is possible that the Community Shield would be used as another test event, with this due to be held in the first of September, with Liverpool already confirmed as participants.
That should be held at Wembley, allowing the authorities to test safety measures in terms of travel links and crowd control, including entry, exit and seating around the 90,000-seater stadium.
The chances of fans returning for the new Premier League season are growing increasingly likely, and last week it was reported that a working group had proposed a 40 percent capacity for the start of the campaign.
This could see Anfield filled with around 21,000 supporters for their first home game defending the title.