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Premier League chief hails fans pilot event

London (AFP) – Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has hailed a test event for the partial return of supporters as a success, after 2,500 fans attended Brighton’s friendly with Chelsea.

Strict social-distancing measures were in place for Saturday’s 1-1 draw in the pre-season friendly at the Amex Stadium.

It was the first time fans had been allowed into a Premier League ground since the top-flight was suspended in March due to the coronavirus. The competition resumed in June behind closed doors.

Saturday’s match was one of a number of trial events announced by the government for a phased return of spectators across a range of sports.

“Brighton and Hove Albion did a fantastic job at their test event for the return of supporters and it was great to see fans in a Premier League stadium for the first time since March,” said Masters.

“The success of having 2,500 supporters in the Amex was very encouraging and we are committed to having full stadia as soon as possible, with safety always our priority. We are working hard alongside our clubs, the government and the safety authorities to achieve this.”

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said the event went smoothly.

“Credit to our fans — they followed the guidelines, listened to requests from our stewards and, even at the end, when they stayed on to listen to the managers’ pitchside interviews on our stadium screens, they remained in their seats and observed social distancing.”

On Sunday the government announced the formation of the Sport Tech Innovation Group, which will include the Premier League and other sporting bodies, to explore high-tech solutions to allow more fans into stadiums.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden said this weekend marked “an important milestone” in the recovery of sport.

“I am doing everything I can to get fans back in the stands, following the teams and enjoying the sports they love,” he said. “Sport’s economic health depends on their return to stadiums, too.”

“We have blown the starting whistle on fans returning safely but our work is not done until every fan is back where they belong,” he added.

The new Premier League season starts behind closed doors on September 12.

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