Burnley fans' hopes of returning to Turf Moor dashed - what Michael Gove said and how it could threaten clubs' futures

Burnley supporters are set to see their return to Turf Moor delayed – with the government announcing they will put the brakes on plans to return spectators to sporting events.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 9:24 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 9:27 am
Turf Moor

The Clarets have played all their games so far at the start of the the 2020/21 season behind closed doors, with only a limited number of club officials and press allowed to attend fixtures.

But after a number of successful fan pilots last weekend – which saw up to 1,000 fans attend seven EFL fixtures – there were hopes that fans could soon return in a phased approach from October 1st.

However, plans for supporters to return to grounds next month have been scrapped as Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove confirmed to BBC Breakfast that the Government will put a “pause” on the reintroduction of spectators at grounds.

Gove said: “It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme for more people returning. It wasn’t going to be the case we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.

“We’re looking at how we can, for the moment, pause that programme. What we do want to do is ensure that as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.

“The virus is less likely to spread outdoors than indoors but it is in the nature of major sporting events that there is a lot of mingling. People look back now to the beginning of the pandemic and look at some of the major sporting events then and ask the question ‘why were they allowed to go ahead’

“Well, one of the things we must do now, whatever the wisdom of decisions made then, is to look at sporting events now with caution.

“We also recognise sport is a vital part of the life of this nation and we’re looking at everything we can do in order to support our athletes and great clubs through what is a challenging time.”

The decision will impact ‘elite’ teams which include part-time teams below the fifth tier of English football.

Such a move puts the future of clubs in jeopardy with matchday income and commercial opportunities brought about by fans attending matches, a crucial revenue stream.

More than 100 sporting bodies have expressed their concern about further restrictions and the need for financial aid to the Prime Minister in a letter.

It read: “Covid-19 has undermined our commercial revenue streams with both stadiums and leisure facilities closed or greatly reduced in capacity.

"The impact of this will potentially lead to a lost generation of sport and activity.

"We are particularly concerned about the impact on those whose participation has been limited during the pandemic. Physical activity levels, especially in the most vulnerable groups, are significantly below where they were tracking pre-Covid-19.

“Our sector will be at the forefront of your plans to improve the health and wellbeing of all communities…to solving societal issues…including reducing health inequalities, tackling obesity, cutting crime, easing loneliness, and enhancing social cohesion.

“But to do so effectively, we require your government's backing.”