Premier League fixtures pushed back to give all clubs one home match with crowds

Moving back penultimate round will allow all teams to admit fans for one home match

Chelsea were one of the clubs who were briefly able to allow limited fans into their ground last year. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Chelsea were one of the clubs who were briefly able to allow limited fans into their ground last year. Photo: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

 

The penultimate round of Premier League matches will be pushed back so each team can play a home game in front of up to 10,000 fans, according to reports.

The 37th round will now be played on May 18th and 19th, the day after the third step of the UK government’s coronavirus roadmap is scheduled to start.

From May 17th lockdown restrictions are set to ease further, with larger outdoor venues able to welcome 25 per cent of capacity or 10,000 people, whichever is smallest.

Almost as soon as the roadmap was published on February 22nd, the league was understood to have concerns over the impact of only the final round of games on May 23rd being played in front of fans and had been working towards rescheduling round 37.

The Premier League has informed clubs about the decision to switch, but it is not expected to confirm the plans until broadcast arrangements are fully in place.

The league’s chief executive Richard Masters stated last month that he felt a return to full stadia for the start of the 2021-22 season in August was “an achievable goal”.

The UK government hopes that sports fans will be able to return to venues in significant numbers from June 21st, and its Event Research Programme (ERP) is using a series of events as pilots to test the safest and most effective ways to make that happen.

Supporters attending the Carabao Cup final — one of the ERP events — later this month will need proof of a negative lateral flow test in order to enter Wembley.

The English top flight was one of 10 signatories to a letter sent to political leaders last week endorsing the use of a Covid certification status system, whereby proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or antibody immunity must be provided to access a venue.

The league’s executive director Bill Bush told BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme: “The alternative (to certification) is not freedom.

“The alternative is social distancing, tiny crowds, major restrictions on people’s movement and ability to eat, drink, travel. Away fans banned for example.

“So to end those restrictions of freedom, we believe that something like this is an acceptable burden to give fans the freedom to attend.”

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