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Football fans could return to UK grounds by September

British culture secretary says there have been ‘productive dicussions’ over when the game will no longer have to be behind closed doors

Everton Training Match
Everton will play the rest of the 2019-20 season behind closed doors
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

The culture secretary has said football fans may begin to be allowed back into stadiums by the start of next season.

After Premier League chief executive Richard Masters revealed earlier this week that government talks on the matter had begun, Oliver Dowden has since revealed that ‘productive discussions’ surrounding this issue have taken place.

After a 100-day absence due to the coronavirus, with which more than 42,000 people in the UK have died, the Premier League returned on Wednesday, with all remaining 2019-20 fixtures to be played behind closed doors.

Should ‘Project Restart’ go according to plan, the domestic season will be wrapped up by early August and the following campaign begin by mid-September, by which time Dowden hopes it will be safe for fans to start to return.

At the daily coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, he said:

“I would really hope that by the return of the new season, we might be in a position whereby some fans could start to return to stadiums.

“I know that would be another important part of restoring the financial positions of clubs.”

Britain’s coronavirus scheme, which is being used by many lower-league clubs, will finish at the end of October, by which time revenue from gate receipts may become even more crucial to keeping clubs financially afloat.

Everton have already offered the choice to 2019-20 season ticket holders of receiving a refund of the value of their five remaining home matches, or donating the money to the club’s Blue Family charity.

Last week, the club also announced that both players and non-playing staff had voluntarily agreed to take wage reductions and deferrals of up to 50 per cent.

The Blues return to action in the Premier League on Sunday when they take on Liverpool at Goodison Park.