May 5 – As English football grapples with the pros and cons of resuming the season behind closed doors, Football Association chairman Greg Clarke (pictured) fears fans will not be allowed back to games “any time soon”.
“The reality is that we just don’t know how things are going to pan out,” Clarke wrote in a letter to the FA’s governing Council members. “But with social distancing in place for some time to come, we do face substantial changes to the whole football ecosystem.
“For example it’s hard to foresee crowds of fans, who are the lifeblood of the game, returning to matches any time soon.”
Clarke’s comments suggest there is a strong chance of the entire 2020-21 season also being behind closed doors as well as the remainder of the current campaign.
He warned of an FA budget cut of £75 million this year, with a “worst-case scenario” of a £300 million deficit over the next four years impacting “every area of the game”.
The Premier League has been suspended since March 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic but all clubs are committed to playing the 92 remaining fixtures of the 2019-20 season if and when it is safe to do so.
The league is hopeful of a potential June 8 restart and finishing at the end of July to fit in with UEFA’s European competition plans. That would require full training to begin by 18 May. UEFA says it wants to know from everyone by May 25 what their resumption plans are.
In addition to the idea of playing at neutral venues, up to 40,000 tests for players and staff would reportedly be needed if plans to play the outstanding games behind closed doors are pursued. Players would have to arrive at training grounds already in their kit and wear masks at all times.
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