LONDON (Reuters) - Aston Villa CEO Christian Purslow has criticised the government’s decision to limit sporting pilot test events to a maximum of 1,000 fans for the rest of September.
The new Premier League campaign begins this weekend without fans -- the same scenario clubs faced after the resumption of last season following a three-month hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July the government said fans could possibly return to stadiums by Oct. 1 following a series of pilot events in various sports, but that is now under review after a rise in infections.
“So we feel rather disappointed about yesterday’s news. It’s not true that we haven’t had clarity on these (test events). We have actually been told they will be delayed and we have been told the tests would be capped at 1,000 fans,” Purslow, who says the Premier League will lose 100 million pounds ($130.07 million) per month, told BBC Radio.
“The only thing you will learn from having 1,000 fans in a stadium in a football test event is that football clubs lose huge amounts of money when their stadiums are empty and that has a profound impact on the economy of football.”
Purslow pointed to a successful test event at Brighton & Hove Albion in which 2,500 fans were allowed in to watch a pre-season friendly against Chelsea.
Arsenal’s Premier League home match against Sheffield United had been earmarked as potential reduced-capacity test event.
“The government have been in possession for over two months of a wide-ranging proposal for a set of test events that should have taken place in September, including what we thought of as a pioneering event in central London to try and move away from this social distancing limitation as the basis of which to determine how many fans can come in,” Purslow said.
“In our stadium if we applied the one metre plus metric only about 4,000 fans could come in to 42,000-seater Villa Park and anyone can see that’s not viable.
“We are advocating a testing largely in line with rugby where a huge amount of accurate pre-testing is done of a known audience of fans before and after matches.
“That not only provides a safe environment but helps the government with a very large sample size. We were proposing 50% in a large London stadium which would have been the biggest sample ever taken.”
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Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge
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