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Premier League Fans Return To Stadiums

It has been an incredible few months for the world and sports fans had to endure a bit of a drought when it came to watching their favourite footballers take to the pitch.

Even when the Premier League and Champions League returned, the games were played behind closed doors. The tournaments were condensed down to weeks instead of months as various governing bodies tried to see out the remainder of their seasons.

But we did eventually get our winners with Liverpool taking the Premier League honours and Bayern Munich becoming the reigning champions of Europe.

So what now for next season's leagues? Will we be able to head back to our favourite stadiums, enjoy a pint and pie and cheer on our teams?

The Stadium Test

It was decided that the first test to allow fans to return to their ground would be the pre-season friendly between Brighton and Chelsea. The game took place at the Amex Stadium (Falmer Stadium) on Saturday, August 29th 2020.

With strict social distancing measures in place, 2,524 fans took their seats. With a normal capacity of just over 30,000 that meant just 8% of the stadium was filled.

Brighton pulled out all the stops with hand sanitising stations, digital match tickets, cashless transactions and plenty of stewards to man the crowd.

The fans were a credit to their club and followed all the guidelines, giving much needed hope that soon more fans will be able to attend the weekly games.

Premier League Fans Return

With the Premier League returning on September 12th, the trials allowing fans into the stadiums will continue. The hope is that by October, a full rollout will be possible with the various clubs increasing their capacity.

But don't expect things to return to normal any time soon. Capacity will still be capped and fans will be advised not to chant, cheer or shout during the games. There will also be strict crowd management and social distancing measures in place.

And if you happen to be based in the North West of England then you are bang out of luck as there are no trials currently scheduled due to stricter lockdown controls.

Each individual club has their own plan for allowing fans to return. Manchester United has officially stated that while they are working closely with all governing bodies, the earliest their doors will open is October 1st.

That appears to be the standard and official line from most of the Premier League clubs. The hope is that as October rolls on, stadiums will get to about a third full.

The Impact On Clubs

This of course has a very serious financial impact on clubs that rely heavily on gate receipts to keep the doors open. And the smaller clubs with older stadiums may be forced to restrict admission to even less than the proposed 33%. If clubs can't keep up with the technology they will be left behind.

It is estimated that the Premier League clubs lost out on £850m last season. If they can't get their fans back, it could be just as bad for the 2020/21 season.

Two seasons ago, matchday income across all 20 Premier League clubs was worth £683m. That is 13% of the total turnover, which is dominated by broadcasting receipts. However, it's the gate that is often the difference between a club making a profit or not.

With players wages swallowing up the majority of the money made, and no fans allowed into the stadiums could we see one or two of our favourite clubs going under this season?

Hopefully not but with so much money on the line and even more tech investment needed, it is race to the finish line to ensure we eventually see packed out stadiums and a return to the great days out that we are used to.

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