Norwich City's home game against Preston North End on Saturday was one of seven fixtures in the EFL to trial a limited return of fans
Norwich City’s home game against Preston North End on Saturday was one of seven fixtures in the EFL to trial a limited return of fans

English Football League chairman Rick Parry says the league is “deeply frustrated” after plans to allow some fans to return to matches were halted.

Crowds had been due to return to sports events in limited numbers next month, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that this will not go ahead.

The decision came after seven EFL clubs piloted small crowds last Saturday.

“With extended measures introduced it’s imperative the financial issues facing our clubs are addressed,” Parry said.

“Therefore we are deeply frustrated that we will not be able to continue this work and, in doing so, gather the evidence to show that crowds can return safely to football and become an important financial lifeline for our clubs.

“As a matter of urgency, we now need to understand what the government’s roadmap is for getting supporters back into stadiums as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden held a meeting with representatives of several major sports following Tuesday’s announcement, during which a request for a sports recovery fund was discussed.

The EFL is one of a number of bodies to outline concerns over the government’s decision, with Rugby Football Union chief Bill Sweeney saying no spectators at the forthcoming Autumn Nations Cup or Six Nations will result in losses of £60m.

Meanwhile, the Premier League has begun to consider alternatives after the proposed return of fans was scrapped, with season ticket holders accessing streams of matches not due to be broadcast an idea being addressed.

“EFL Clubs lost £50m last season as a result of playing matches behind closed doors or curtailing the season and stand to lose a further £200m in 2020-21 should we be required to play the whole season without supporters in grounds,” Parry added.

“I am encouraged that the Government has recognised the need for urgent financial assistance for sport and discussions will continue with DCMS and the Premier League.

“We remain optimistic that a solution will be found but we should also be very clear that if it is not, then the outlook for many clubs in the period ahead will be very challenging.”

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