July 28, 2020 / 4:35 AM / 12 days ago

Premier League may see reduced crowds into next year: government adviser

(Reuters) - Sporting venues in England are unlikely to get the green light to fill to capacity this year and the entire 2020-21 Premier League season could be played in front of reduced crowds, a senior government adviser has said.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Stamford Bridge, London, Britain - July 26, 2020 Chelsea's Olivier Giroud scores their second goal, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pool via REUTERS/Daniel Leal-Olivas

The British government announced plans this month to allow spectators at selected trial events to ‘stress test’ new guidelines.

Cricket was the first sport to bring back spectators, with 1,000 fans watching a friendly between Surrey and Middlesex at The Oval on Sunday. The World Snooker Championship at the Crucible and the Goodwood horse racing festival are also pilot events.

“I would be very surprised if we could get full stadia back this year,” James Calder, who was part of the cross-sport working group with government and health officials that laid down protocols on the return of sports, told the BBC.

“Realistically I think it probably will need a vaccine and also a high take-up rate of that vaccine before we can really see full capacity stadia.”

Calder said it was possible the new soccer season might be played in front of reduced capacities.

“I think realistically we will be under scrutiny for the next year ... and probably for the rest of the season,” he added.

Calder added that experiments were being conducted to determine whether chanting and singing at stadiums might lead to a greater risk of virus transmission.

“Now if there is no massive droplet spread we can keep within the social distancing that we’ve put down for ... the Crucible and The Oval,” he said.

“But if it is a problem, then we need to rethink the social distancing within the stadia, and that becomes very difficult.”

Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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