Premier League encouraged by lack of fan issues during Bundesliga return

PUBLISHED: 09:58 19 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:40 19 May 2020

Norwich City are still hoping to play their remaining Premier League home games at Carrow Road, even though fans will not be able to attend 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Norwich City are still hoping to play their remaining Premier League home games at Carrow Road, even though fans will not be able to attend Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images

Paul Chesterton

Premier League bosses have drawn encouragement from fans staying away from stadiums in Germany as they continue to work with clubs on how the season can be completed on a home and away basis.

It’s understood clubs were told on May 1 that using eight to 10 approved neutral venues was the only way the 2019-20 season could be completed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the league held further talks with police and government representatives last week to keep open the possibility of clubs’ own stadia being used, if fixtures can resume in June as is hoped.

Five of Norwich City’s remaining nine top-flight fixtures are due to be at home, against Southampton, Everton, Brighton, West Ham and Burnley, with a home FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United also on hold.

The Canaries have already acknowledged the likelihood of those matches being played behind closed doors by starting the rebate process for season ticket holders and members.

The German top flight resumed at the weekend, and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters felt the early signs were good in many ways, not least the lack of supporters congregating outside venues.

“All in all, I thought it was good. The other thing is we didn’t have, in any of the games, any fan issues, congregations or gatherings to speak of. It was a positive start for Bundesliga,” he said.

Asked whether that might help boost the argument for home and away matches in England, he added: “It’s early days, we’ve only had eight games. We need to see how it all pans out. But it was interesting to note that.

“In terms of venues, we are working with clubs. We had a meeting last week with the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), the police and the SGSA (Sports Grounds Safety Authority) and DCMS asked football to come forward with its proposals.

“We are planning to do that, working in conjunction with the EFL (English Football League) and have asked our clubs for lots of information. It’s an ongoing discussion.”

MORE: Open letter from Norwich City CSF on rebate alternative

One of the criticisms of the Bundesliga experience was the lack of atmosphere at matches.

Masters said a working group had been set up to ensure the product for viewers at home was as appealing as possible - with the season resuming behind closed doors in South Korea having crowd noise played out over stadium speakers.

“In terms of the precise nature of what we are planning, we haven’t really talked about it with the wide group yet so I don’t want to share too much of the plans,” Masters said.

“But obviously the big issue is that if there aren’t fans in the stadium, what does the viewing fan at home, what’s his experience like? And how different is it to a normal Premier League production and that’s the question we’re seeking to answer.”

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