The Premier League, EFL, Football Association, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship have united to call for the return of fans to matches, raising the pressure on the government to allow socially distanced crowds.
Richard Masters of the Premier League and Mark Bullingham of the Football Association, alongside Kelly Simmons, the FA director of the women’s game, and David Baldwin, the Football League chief executive, signed a letter which laid out well-established plans to allow supporters into stadiums and reiterated an intention to persuade government to take them up.
The letter was addressed to the fans but its true audience would likely be in No 10 Downing Street. Plans for getting fans into matches had been agreed with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and successfully piloted. But after Covid-19 case numbers began to rise in September the prime minister announced the pilots were to be suspended, among a series of measures he said were set to last for six months.
“We need clarity for our clubs and for you as supporters as to what the roadmap for change in this area looks like,” the letter says. “We all know why caution is needed, and we ask government for consistency in their policy so sport is treated as fairly as other activities currently allowed to welcome spectators.
“So, we will continue to urge the relevant authorities to let us, together, use innovative ways to bring fans safely back into football grounds, starting with a return of the test event programme. If we do so, then the benefits will be felt not just by fans but throughout society and the economy.”
Calling the return of crowds to concerts “positive progress”, the letter notes that gigs will take place indoors, where transmission of Covid‑19 is more likely. “Now football should be allowed to do the same, in highly regulated and stewarded outdoor environments.”
The timing of the letter matches growing discontent among fans on social media. The hashtag #letfansin has returned to prominence. It has promoted a supporters’ petition calling for the return of fans which was promoted by the EFL Twitter account on Tuesday and has passed 90,000 signatures.