Matchday, Anfield, general, lineup. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Premier League welcome return of fans & eye “significant role” in rapid testing

The Premier League has welcomed the government’s plans to welcome back fans in a limited capacity and is eager to play a “significant role” in the rapid turnaround testing initiative.

After over eight months of fans being absent from football stadiums across the country, it was announced on Monday that up to 4,000 supporters in low-risk areas will be granted access from next week.

It will come into effect once England’s second lockdown comes to an end of December 2 and will be entirely reliant on the tier classification each region is placed in on Thursday.

Those in the lowest Covid risk areas, categorised under tier-one, can host up to a maximum of 4,000 fans in outdoor events, while 2,000 will be allowed in tier-two.

However, any stadium residing in an area which is allocated to tier-three will not see fans granted access.

Liverpool will be forced to wait until later in the week to know if they are able to host supporters, but the first potential game to do so at Anfield will be against Wolves on the weekend of December 5 – just 11 days away.

Anfield, matchday general, pre-match. (Pic by Paul Greenwood/Propaganda)

There are hopes the city will escape tier-three having seen the infection rate fall below the national average after taking advantage of a mass testing scheme.

And while opening the gates to a limited number of supporters is not viable for top-flight clubs, the move has been welcomed by the Premier League as they also look to play an important role in the rapid testing scheme which can return results in 15-30 minutes.

A Premier League statement following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement said:

Fans have been greatly missed at Premier League matches and therefore we welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement today regarding the return of supporters for the first time since March, albeit at small numbers.

Our ambition remains to work with Government to increase attendance to more substantial levels. Until this can be done, many fans will be unable to attend games and our clubs will continue to operate matches at a financial loss.

Our priority continues to be the agreement of a roadmap, with DCMS and the Sports Technology and Innovation Group, for pilot events that can help our clubs quickly scale up to larger capacities in line with the Sports Ground Safety Authority’s COVID-secure guidelines and beyond.

Premier League clubs have a proven track record of achieving high-biosecurity standards and we believe we can play a significant role in the Government’s rapid turnaround testing initiative.

We look forward to working with Government on their next steps.

NHS staff carry out coronavirus tests at a testing facility in Bracebridge Heath, Lincoln (Joe Giddens/PA)

The rapid COVID-19 tests have been labelled a “freedom pass” out of mass restrictions, where negative results would enable the public to attend football matches, the pub or theatre, for example.

And their use in the division and across the football league could see a boost in capacity in what would be a major step forward for fans and for a club’s balance sheet.

The decision on which fans can attend will be on a club-by-club basis and Liverpool were eager to stress they will make “further announcements in due course” as they continue to plot the safe return of supporters.

A statement from the club said: “Liverpool Football Club welcomes the government’s announcement regarding the proposed return of fans into sports stadia. We have greatly missed our supporters at Anfield and we look forward to welcoming them back when it is safe to do so.

“We will continue to work with our city partners, including Liverpool City Council, Merseyside Police and Spirit of Shankly, in order to establish the most up-to-date health guidance and the most effective process for the safe return of supporters.”