The Premier League has announced it will extend its policy of showing all matches live on UK television until fans return to stadiums.
Confirmation came on the day Brighton’s chief executive, Paul Barber, said he was hopeful a small number of supporters could return this season but the club were “preparing for the worst and them not coming back”.
An agreement on televising all matches was due to expire at the end of the month but the league said: “All fixtures for the 2020-21 season will continue to be made available to fans to watch live in the UK. This arrangement will be extended until government guidance permits supporters to return to stadiums. All matches will be shown via existing broadcast partners Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video and BBC.”
Fans were last allowed into sports grounds in December, and when spectators will next be welcomed could become clearer on Monday when Boris Johnson sets out a road map for how the UK will come out of lockdown.
Barber, speaking at Wednesday’s Financial Times Business of Football event, said: “We are hopeful that we might see a small number of fans back by the end of the season. But realistically we are preparing for the worst and them not coming back.
“There are a number of issues. There is going to be the issue of confidence; even when people have received the vaccine, not everybody will take the option of having it, and in terms of fans coming back in large numbers and getting to and from the stadium.
“There is the financial issue, too. A lot of people have lost their jobs so that is going to have some impact on season-ticket and matchday sales. And then were are set to face some form of government restrictions, whether that is in terms of limited capacity or social distancing.”
It emerged this week the Football Association and EFL are in talks with the government about fans potentially returning for the Carabao Cup final and FA Cup final at Wembley on 25 April and 15 May respectively.