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Premier League chief Richard Masters says it is ‘absolutely critical’ fans return

Premier League chief Richard Masters says it is 'absolutely critical' fans return
There were 2,500 fans at a pre-season friendly between Brighton and Chelsea in August as part of a government trial

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says it is “absolutely critical” that fans are allowed back inside stadiums as soon as possible.

He says failure to do so will cost clubs £700m during the 2020-21 season, which starts on Saturday.

Football has been played behind closed doors since its return in June following the coronavirus lockdown.

As it stands, no fans will be admitted to top-flight matches before October at the earliest.

But Masters told BBC Sport that matches behind closed doors “can’t go on forever”, as clubs have already lost more than half a billion pounds from the disruption to the final quarter of last season.

“We have to get back to fans inside stadia as quickly as possible – that’s the big thing that’s missing, economic or otherwise – we need fans back inside stadiums for all sorts of reasons and it’s the number one priority,” he said.

Masters also revealed he was still hopeful some fans could return to grounds next month, despite the rising number of cases of coronavirus in the UK and the new restrictions on gatherings of more than six people, which comes into effect on Monday.

He admitted clubs “would have to adapt” because “there will be bumps in the road”.

“It doesn’t lower our ambitions – it just means that we’ll have to adapt – it’s one thing we’ve shown over recent months, we’re able to adapt to the situation,” Masters said.

“We wait to see what impact it has on the government’s testing programme, and permissions it’s going to give, and also on that crucial 1 October date. We wait to see what the government decides and we’ll remain in dialogue with them throughout.

“We always knew September was going to be a difficult month at the start of the return to normality the government was talking about, and so we should anticipate bumps in the road.”

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