The UK government has urged the Premier League to broadcast more matches live on TV while fans continue to be locked out of stadiums.
When the delayed 2019-20 season was concluded the “Project Restart” saw all 92 remaining fixtures shown live across Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime or the BBC, says The Sun. However, current plans for the new campaign, which starts on 12 September, will see 160 of the 380 top-flight matches not televised.
While 220 games will be broadcast in 2020-21, the season will start behind closed doors and even if fans do return to grounds the numbers will be limited due to social distancing restrictions.
Following the launch of a #LetUsWatch campaign ahead of today’s Premier League shareholders’ meeting, The Telegraph revealed that ministers staged a “dramatic last-ditch intervention” as the row escalated over allowing games to be screened while fixtures take place behind closed doors or at reduced capacity.
A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told the BBC: “Our focus is on working with the football authorities, safety and medical experts to get fans back in stadia as quickly as possible.
“It is for the Premier League and its broadcast partners to come to an agreement on screening matches, however we urge them to follow the spirit of Project Restart and listen to clubs’ loyal fans and consider what can be achieved in the meantime.”
FSA warns of illegal piracy
The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) launched the #LetUsWatch campaign for all games to be shown live in the UK.
The FSA “welcomes the government intervention”, the BBC reports, and its chief executive Kevin Miles said: “We all want to get back to games when it’s safe to do so but it’s not in anyone’s interests to have a situation where fans excluded from grounds for reasons of health or Covid-related capacity reductions feel they have no option but to resort to illegal pirate broadcast schemes.”
It has been widely reported that the opening weekend of October could see fans return to Premier League stadiums.
The Daily Mail says Arsenal are planning to welcome up to 15,000 fans for their home clash against Sheffield United on 3 October.
Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium has a capacity of nearly 61,000 but will be reduced to between 15% and 25%. This would mean between 9,000 and 15,000 supporters being allowed in to watch games.