Crowds at sporting events: Football clubs 'perplexed' by 'inconsistencies'

By Laura ScottBBC Sport
Sprinklers at Old Trafford
Fans have not been allowed back into Premier League grounds such as Old Trafford

Leading English football clubs are said to be "perplexed" by what they consider to be "inconsistencies" about the government's approach to crowds at live events.

The O2 Arena has announced 4,700 people will be able to attend a concert in December, and the Royal Albert Hall will welcome audiences of up to 2,500 back for a number of concerts this Christmas.

The performing arts moved to stage four on their Government roadmap in August, meaning reduced, socially distanced audiences are permitted indoors and outdoors.

Venues must be able to demonstrate they are Covid secure, and get local authority approval for audiences.

Elite sporting events are not permitted to have crowds, after the planned return of fans from 1 October was paused because of rising infection rates.

Sources from the top divisions of English football have questioned the rationale for the different rules for sport and performing arts, with one telling BBC Sport: "The inconsistency in the approach is stark, and illogical.

"We need a roadmap from the government for getting fans back."

One industry observer said: "It is totally ridiculous, and we would like to see medical justification. It could end up costing thousands of jobs."

BBC Sport has been told Premier League clubs are "perplexed" and "frustrated".

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said the return of fans to live sports will be constantly kept "under review", but sports are preparing for the current restrictions potentially being in place through the winter.

A government-backed Sports Technology and Innovation Group (STIG) is working on solutions to enable elite sports grounds and venues to reopen.

Writing in the Sunday Times,external-link Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish said: "Our game against Chelsea was shown in Vue cinemas, to audiences packed indoors, while once again there were no spectators in the stands. This makes little sense."

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