Football: Fans, please stay away, English Premier League chief urges

There will be no fans allowed into any Premier League games this term. PHOTO: REUTERS

London (AFP, Bloomberg) - English Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has warned fans to stay away from stadiums once the top-flight returns behind closed doors on Wednesday (June 17).

The Premier League resumes after a three-month hiatus with Aston Villa's home game against Sheffield United and Arsenal's trip to Manchester City.

A full programme of matches follows over the weekend, including Liverpool's potential title-clincher at Merseyside rivals Everton.

There are fears some supporters will ignore social distancing rules by congregating outside the grounds where their teams are playing.

But after talks between the league's key stakeholders and police, it was agreed not to move any of the remaining 92 matches to neutral venues at present.

Aware of the scrutiny the league will be under, Masters has issued a plea to fans not to gather around stadiums during matches.

"Please stay away and enjoy the matches at home. By turning up to the game you are putting things at jeopardy," Masters told the BBC on Tuesday.

There will be no fans allowed into any Premier League games this term, but Masters is optimistic there could be some eventually given entry next season.

"We're hopeful fans will come back on a phased opportunity. Discussions have started, but it is not appropriate for me to put a timescale on it," he said.

On another note, Boris Johnson has bowed to pressure to provide free meals for Britain's poorest children over the summer after a campaign led by England footballstar Marcus Rashford.

The prime minister's office said £120 million (S$211 million) will be made available to feed 1.3 million children in England during the six-week school break after people from across the political spectrum called on him to drop his opposition to the plan.

Rashford, a 22-year-old whose family relied on free school meals, wrote to MPs this week calling for the support to continue in the school vacation. During the coronavirus pandemic, children in low-income households have received food parcels or vouchers, but ministers said it would stop at the end of term.

"This is a specific measure to reflect the unique circumstances of the pandemic," Johnson's spokesman James Slack told reporters as he announced the prime minister's U-turn on Tuesday morning. "It will not extend beyond the summer." Slack said the 15 pound-a-week payment will be through vouchers to use in supermarkets." A brewing backlash over the issue prompted the policy switch as Johnson faces challenges on multiple fronts as a result of the pandemic.

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