Premier League working with government to devise strategy for football’s return amid coronavirus pandemic

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said discussions were ongoing but reiterated that science will dictate when it is safe to resume

Tom Kershaw
Monday 20 April 2020 11:36
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The Government is working together with the Premier League to devise a strategy for football’s safe return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

English football has been suspended since 13 March with leagues still unable to set any fixed date for a return.

When a resumption does take place, EFL chairman Rick Parry confirmed it will almost certainly be behind closed doors in an open letter to supporters earlier this week.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said discussions were ongoing but reiterated that scientific advice would dictate when it is safe for sport to get back underway.

“In response to future events, we are working with the relevant sporting organisations to understand their plans,” he said. “They have to do it consistent with the scientific evidence and we are helping them to understand whether it is possible for events to go ahead.

“For example, I’ve had conversations with the Premier League and others. But we have been clear throughout all of it that the Government will not consent to events taking place unless we can be sure it is safe to do so.”

All 20 Premier League clubs met over a video conference on Friday to look at various options to complete the season.

While being questioned on Good Morning Britain about whether the Government had acted too slowly to stop mass gatherings, such as the Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid, Dowden claimed the risk was “not different” to that posed by pubs and restaurants.

“The scientific evidence we were being given was that, at a mass gathering, the threat at a mass gathering relates to the people who immediately surround you – the people in front of you and behind you,” he said. “The risk at mass gatherings was no greater or less than it would have been in pubs or restaurants, and the advice at that point was that we did not need to ban mass gatherings.

“As the situation developed, the scientific advice changed and we changed our guidance off the back of it. But mass gatherings are not different to any of those other events I described and at the appropriate moment we took the decision to close pubs, to close restaurants.”

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