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Premier League encouraged by lack of fan issues during Bundesliga return

Virus Outbreak Germany Soccer Restart
(Image credit: Martin Meissner)

The Premier League has drawn encouragement from fans staying away from Bundesliga grounds as it continues to work with its clubs on how the English top-flight season can be completed on a home-and-away basis.

It is 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.

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.”

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber is one of a number of club bosses to express their opposition to finishing the season at neutral venues

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber is one of a number of club bosses to express their opposition to finishing the season at neutral venues (Gareth Fuller/PA)

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.

“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,” he 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.”