Premier League 2020-21: Fan groups concerned over ability to watch games next season

By Alistair MagowanBBC Sport
Liverpool players (from left to right) Adam Lallana, James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold celebrate with the Premier League trophy
Liverpool will begin their Premier League title defence against Leeds on 12 September

Fan groups have raised concerns with the Premier League over their limited ability to watch games next season.

The season will start behind closed doors, and when fans are allowed to return it will be in reduced numbers because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike the end of last season, there are no plans to offer free-to-air matches or virtual season-tickets as there are in Scotland.

Of 380 Premier League fixtures, 220 will be broadcast live on TV.

That is up from 200 last season, but there are fears fans could turn to pirate feeds in increasing numbers with 160 matches unavailable to watch in the UK.

"If fans can't get a ticket, it's the law-abiding ones who miss out," said one source.

Katrina Law of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust said: "I think there is a misconception among fans that they will be able to watch their team like they did in Project Restart.

"We definitely think there should be some provision for match-going fans because of a public-health emergency."

The Premier League declined to comment but discussions with fans are understood to be ongoing.

There are no firm dates for when clubs can let fans back into stadiums, but the government could relax rules surrounding sporting events from 1 October.

That is subject to test events proving to be successful - Brighton & Hove Albion said this week they would be willing to carry out an event as soon as Saturday, 29 August.

The Premier League and English Football League seasons will start from 12 September.

If test events are successful, the number of fans let into stadiums would still have to be determined.

The Football Association issued guidance this week for clubs at step seven of the football ladder and below, saying they could admit fans up to 30% of each league's minimum capacity from 31 August.

A flat limit may not be possible for Premier League and EFL clubs because of differing public access to stadiums, total capacity and access within the stadium concourse.

Brighton also said season ticket holders and members would be the first to receive tickets for games when fans were allowed to return and they would be decided by a ballot.

Everton have said that season ticket holders will be refunded for games they cannot attend.

But there are no wider plans to offer a feed of games via clubs to those that miss out, as has been agreed in the Scottish Premiership.

That move would compromise existing Premier League TV contracts, which are worth over £4.5bn from 2019-22.

Law added: "The irony is that you will have 160 games which you can watch everywhere but the UK.

"This could drive fans to illegal streams of games and I can't understand why the Premier League would want that for match-going fans who cannot attend.

"We have to remember that there are many season-ticket holders who won't be able to go to games because of medical conditions.

"The current situation is not good enough."

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