By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The Premier League's chief executive says there remains a chance that some fans could return to stadiums this season if COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are eased in the coming weeks.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set the path out of lockdown on Monday and has said the staged exit plan would be cautious but irreversible.
Matches have been held behind closed doors since last year due to the pandemic although fans were allowed in limited numbers, in some areas, for a brief period before the country went into lockdown again.
"I am confident (fans will return next season). No one can say because this pandemic has a way of surprising you as it did over Christmas, but we haven’t lost hope we might see a few back even this season, depending on what happens and the direction of the numbers and government decisions etc," Premier League head Richard Masters told the Financial Times' Business of Football summit on Thursday.
"We are getting used to watching live football on television without fans in the stadiums, and I don’t want to get used to it for much longer. Hopefully we will see an end to that and a return of supporters as soon as possible.
"Certainly, I hope next season it opens up quickly and we can work with the government again and with the rest of sport, and get fans back in the stadium in real numbers and get back to the real Premier League," he added.
While the domestic league season will end on May 23, London and Glasgow are also host cities for the postponed Euro 2020 tournament which will be held in 12 venues across Europe.
Wembley Stadium will host group matches and then the semi-finals and final of the competition and organisers UEFA are still hoping to have some fans inside venues.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)