EFL clubs allowed up to 1,000 fans for pilot event matches this weekend

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to meet with sporting bodies this week to continue discussions around planned return of spectators to sport from October 1

EFL
Image: The request from EFL clubs for pilot events was granted by the UK government on Tuesday

EFL clubs have been given the go-ahead to run pilot events this weekend with up to 1,000 spectators allowed to attend matches.

EFL clubs were asked to put in requests by Tuesday in order for plans to be signed off in time.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden will meet with sporting bodies this week to continue discussions around the planned return of spectators to sport from October 1.

Clubs in local lockdown areas were told they would not receive permission to take part in the test events.

2,500 fans watched Brighton's pre-season friendly against Chelsea on August 29
Image: 2,500 fans watched Brighton's pre-season friendly against Chelsea on August 29

An EFL spokesman said: "The EFL remains in discussions with the government about the pilot programme which may include a limited number of further pilot matches during September with capacity limited to 1,000.

"The league is clear in its view that social distancing can be applied safely in football stadia and that having crowds at matches is an absolutely essential part of helping to protect club finances, which remain under extreme pressure. Therefore, the successful delivery of further pilots will be an important step towards getting larger number of fans into grounds safely.

Oliver Dowden
Image: Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden will meet with sports bodies later this week to discuss the planned return of spectators

"The EFL will continue its dialogue with DCMS and the SGSA to ensure that evidence and insight secured from these events helps to inform the government's position on welcoming back supporters post October 1."

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The government restricted pilot events to 1,000 spectators after a rise in coronavirus cases last week, and said plans for grounds to be up to a third full from October 1 would be reviewed.

The Premier League has written to the government over pilot plans and say around £100m per month will be lost by clubs across the leagues while matches continue behind closed doors.

National League wants up to 1,000 fans at all games

National League chairman Brian Barwick has written to Dowden asking the government to consider how its pending decision on the return of fans to football grounds will affect National League clubs, their employees, and local communities.

The National League has also asked the government for permission to begin the new season on October 3 with up to 1,000 fans in attendance at all grounds with social distancing and other coronavirus-secure measures in place.

"The National League restart depends upon crowds being allowed back in stadiums as live attendance is our clubs' largest source of income," said Barwick.

"The government urgently needs to set out a credible pathway for the safe return of supporters, and to ensure our football clubs can continue to function, and to perform their significant role in the sporting life of the country."

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