Government fears Premier League’s ‘Project Big Picture’ is a ‘power grab’ and stresses ‘now is not the time’ for fans to return to sport

The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) has also voiced its opposition to the plans, while the Premier League issued a statement on Sunday condemning the proposals and Parry’s on-the-record support for the revolution.

Dowden was also asked about the return of supporters to live sporting events, with a petition for the return of football fans last week clearing the 100,000 signature threshold required for Parliament to consider it for debate. Plans were in place for supporters to return to sporting events from 1 October following a number of successful pilot events, but they were scrapped when the number of coronavirus cases and deaths started to rise again.

“That was the plan and that’s something we ideally wanted to happen and had been working towards,” Dowden added. “We’d gone through this phased reopening of football.

“For example, very early on, football was one of the first sports to return behind closed doors, we facilitated that with games free-to-view on the BBC and others.

“The next stage was due to be on 1 October to enjoy fans back in socially-distanced circumstances.

“We worked very closely with the clubs to mitigate the risks surrounding that.

“Ultimately, though, against this backdrop of rapidly rising infections, I think people will appreciate now is not the time to do that, to add to the risk of infection spreading by making further easements.”

Football, rugby union and Formula One all took place in other countries at the weekend with fans in attendance in a limited capacity, but Dowden stressed that “now is not the time” for the UK to follow suit as it struggles to get a handle on a second wave of Covid-19 cases.

“There are risks associated with that and, at the time, we were making no easements at all from 1 October,” he added. “Indeed, we were looking to impose further restrictions.

“Now is not the time to do it. I can assure you that I’m working intensively to see when we can do this as soon as it’s safe to do so, once we get the disease under control.”

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