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10-Sep-2020, 02:13 pm

'Absolutely critical' that fans return as soon as possible, says Premier League chief Masters

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Premier League chief executive Richard Masters says it is "absolutely critical" that supporters return to grounds as soon as possible - and that failure to do so could cost clubs up to £700 million ($900m) in the coming season.

English football has been played behind closed doors since returning after coronavirus-enforced lockdown in June, with the 2020-21 campaign - which starts this Saturday - also being commenced without supporters.

There are plans for supporters to return from October, however these have been thrown into doubt by new restrictions in England which will prevent gatherings of more than six people from outside the same household from Monday.

Nevertheless, Masters says it is imperative to get fans back into stadiums in order to reduce the already significant financial impact that coronavirus has had on clubs.

He told BBC Sport: "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.

"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.

"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 October 1 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."

Masters said the Premier League has three key tasks for 2020-21 - ensuring all 380 matches are completed, getting full stadiums of fans back, and maintaining the economic health of all 20 clubs.

"It's not just the loss of matchday revenue," he said. "Every Premier League match on average generates about £20m ($25m) for the economy both local and national so we want to play our part in helping the economy to recover as well.

"I think perhaps there is a perception the Premier League economy can withstand just about anything, but if you do lose £700m out of a planned budget it's going to affect things and clubs have had to make some very difficult decisions.

"That is why it is important we focus on those three key objectives and obviously everyone hopes that from next season we can return to full normality, but it's a huge challenge going forward.

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