Brighton vs Chelsea crowd test encourages Premier League chief Richard Masters

Masters: "The success of having 2,500 supporters in the Amex was very encouraging and we are committed to having full stadia as soon as possible, with safety always our priority."

The Premier League are determined to have full stadia again as soon as is safe
Image: The Premier League are determined to have full stadia again as soon as is safe

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has described the test event for the partial return of supporters as “very encouraging” following Brighton's friendly with Chelsea at the Amex Stadium.

Brighton admitted 2,524 supporters for Saturday's 1-1 pre-season friendly draw - the first football match to admit fans since a ban on mass gatherings was introduced in March.

The game was part of a raft of pilot events, across several sports, approved by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for a phased return of spectators.

Timo Werner made his first Chelsea appearance in a pre-season friendly at Brighton 1:37
Timo Werner scored on his Chelsea debut as Frank Lampard's side drew 1-1 in a pre-season friendly at Brighton.

"Brighton & Hove Albion did a fantastic job at their test event for the return of supporters and it was great to see fans in a Premier League stadium for the first time since March," Masters said.

"The success of having 2,500 supporters in the Amex was very encouraging and we are committed to having full stadia as soon as possible, with safety always our priority. We are working hard alongside our clubs, the Government and the safety authorities to achieve this."

Strict social distancing measures were in place around the ground and for seating in the sparsely populated stands, with hand sanitisation points on the approaches to the Premier League ground.

Face coverings were also required by fans while they were queuing to get in and within the stadium, but not while seated.

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A digital match ticket was scanned for entry into the stadium, with cashless transactions at kiosks and there was signage reminding attending fans of the need to regularly wash hands.

Fans made a welcome return as Brighton hosted Chelsea in a pre-season friendly on Saturday
Image: Fans made a welcome return as Brighton hosted Chelsea in a pre-season friendly on Saturday

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber added: "We are delighted - it went as well as it possibly could have.

"Credit to our fans - they followed the guidelines, listened to requests from our stewards and, even at the end, when they stayed on to listen to the managers' pitchside interviews on our stadium screens, they remained in their seats and observed social distancing."

On Sunday the Government announced the formation of the Sport Tech Innovation Group, which will include the Premier League and other sporting bodies, to explore high-tech solutions to allow more fans into stadiums.

"I am doing everything I can to get fans back in the stands, following the teams and enjoying the sports they love"
Oliver Dowden

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said this weekend marked "an important milestone" in the recovery of sport.

"I am doing everything I can to get fans back in the stands, following the teams and enjoying the sports they love," he added. "Sport's economic health depends on their return to stadiums, too.

"I commend the clubs, players, stewards, emergency services and everyone else for their hard work to get us this far. We have blown the starting whistle on fans returning safely, but our work is not done until every fan is back where they belong."

Martyn Henderson, Chief Executive of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, added: "It's fantastic to see fans return to watch football. Bringing fans back into grounds while maintaining social distancing will bring new challenges. It's great to see fans adapt to the new circumstances.

"Our purpose is, and always will be, ensuring fans can watch live sport safely. We are delighted that our guidance provides sports grounds with the knowledge and support they need to plan for the safe return of fans with confidence."

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