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Premier League to defer fan test events over virus limits

London (AFP) – The Premier League said Friday it would defer holding test events to bring fans back into stadiums because the UK government’s cap of 1,000 supporters was too limiting.

The English top-flight was forced to finish last season behind closed doors when it resumed after the coronavirus lockdown.

The 2020/21 campaign kicks off on Saturday, with stadiums around England remaining empty due to the continued threat of the pandemic as infection numbers show an alarming spike.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that pilot events for sport in September would be restricted to 1,000 fans, with strict conditions in place.

He also said plans for spectators to attend sporting events in England from October were to be reviewed.

But the Premier League said a limit of 1,000 fans would not allow it to properly test and evaluate safety measures and matches would be loss-making.

“Premier League clubs will defer holding test events until a sufficient number of fans are allowed back to enable thorough trials to take place,” it said in a statement.

It gave a stark warning of the financial damage to the game as a result of empty stadiums.

“For each month of the season without fans, more than £100 million ($128 million) is lost to football across the leagues, with consequent damage to the local and national economy,” it said.

“It also harms the employment prospects of more than 100,000 people whose jobs depend on matchday activities.”

The Premier League said clubs could offer larger-scale trials to prove it was possible to produce safe environments.

“As the government begins its review of the 1 October date for the return of spectators to sport, the Premier League asks that the high safety standards which can be achieved by our clubs are fully taken into account before any decision is taken and that sport is not left behind other industries,” it said.

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