Premier League clubs fail in bid to use fan loophole as push for bigger crowds falls at the first hurdle with the Government insisting they must classify their grounds as outdoor or indoor venues
- Premier League clubs have failed in a bid to use a loophole to admit more fans
- Several clubs wanted to classify their grounds as indoor and outdoor venues
- It would have seen corporate clients in hospitality areas as well as regular fans
- But the Government have insisted that clubs can only apply for one licence
Premier League clubs have suffered a blow in their battle with the Government over the return of fans.
Clubs have been told they will be forced to choose between operating as indoor or outdoor venues when lockdown restrictions are lifted next week.
Sportsmail has learned that several clubs were hoping to exploit a potential loophole in new regulations by classifying their grounds as both indoor and outdoor arenas, which would have enabled them to admit more supporters.
Premier League clubs have suffered a blow in their battle with the Government over the return of fans next week
Clubs like Tottenham were hoping to use a loophole which would allow bigger crowds
Under a plan designed to maximise attendances and revenue, clubs wanted to apply for both indoor and outdoor status, thus enabling those in tier one to entertain 2,000 corporate clients in hospitality areas, in addition to 4,000 season-ticket holders seated in the stands, with 1,000 and 2,000 permitted in tier two areas.
In more detailed guidance released on Tuesday, however, it is understood that the Government have made it clear that clubs will only be allowed to apply for one of the licences. So the strict attendance limits will be 2,000 or 1,000 fans indoors or 4,000 or 2,000 outdoors. No fans will be allowed to attend at clubs in tier three.
The ruling is a setback for clubs such as Arsenal and Tottenham, who have extensive corporate facilities offering pitch views behind glass, which they could have opened as an indoor venue in addition to seats in the stadium.
Spurs have extensive corporate facilities which could have opened as an indoor venue
Arsenal offer seats behind glass, which they also could have opened as an indoor venue in addition to seats inside the stadium
Clubs could still choose to maximise gate receipts by selling all of their allocation as corporate tickets, although this would inevitably lead to a backlash from the rest of their fanbase.
While they have yet to finalise ticketing plans ahead of Thursday’s announcement of the new regional tiers, ballots of season-ticket holders are expected at most clubs who are permitted to welcome back fans.
The cost of opening stadiums for a few thousand fans will be an issue for several Premier League clubs, many of whom have yet to confirm that they will seek to admit spectators next week.
Those clubs concerned at losing significant sums by reopening were given an extra incentive on Tuesday, however, when it emerged that plans have drawn up for pilot events involving much larger crowds in the new year.
Discussions have taken place with Government about selected clubs hosting crowds of over 10,000 on an experimental basis in January. But talks are at an early stage and are contingent upon Covid-19 cases not increasing significantly after the Christmas rules announced on Tuesday.
Discussions have taken place with the Government about selected clubs hosting crowds of over 10,000 on an experimental basis in January
Clubs are also planning to clamp down on opportunistic fans selling on any tickets they obtain through ballots over the next few weeks amid concerns track and trace protocols could be compromised by stadiums opening their doors.
Premier League officials are aware of the problems that exchanging tickets would create with regard to track and trace systems and will remind clubs of how critical it is to ensure tickets do not change hands.
Clubs will make clear in no uncertain terms to fans that tickets should not change hands so officials know exactly who is in the stadium on match-days.
Thorough identification checks upon entry to grounds will take place — and should be easier to police given the severely limited number of fans allowed.
The NHS track and trace service informs individuals if they may have come into contact with another person who has tested positive for Covid. That would be jeopardised if those meant to be in possession of tickets were not actually in the stadium.