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Soccer-Premier League chief hopes fans can return by end of season

LONDON, March 12 (Reuters) – The Premier League plans to welcome up to 10,000 fans in stadiums for the final two rounds of matches this season, chief executive Richard Masters said on Friday.

The British government last month set out a four-stage easing of England’s COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Under the third stage of the “roadmap”, very large outdoor stadiums will – if all conditions are met – from May 17 be able to have up to 10,000 people or 25% capacity, sbobet whichever is lower.

“Hopefully the final two fixtures of our season will have up to 10,000 supporters in them all,” Masters was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“We’ve got to go past those first initial steps in the government’s roadmap to get there, so hopefully that will be a fantastic finale to end the season.”

The current fixture schedule has May 15 and 23 listed as the final two weekends of the Premier League season.

Masters said the suspension of the 2019-20 season and the absence of fans amid the COVID-19 crisis came at a heavy cost.

Stadiums in some parts of England briefly opened up to a limited number of fans in December but the government imposed another lockdown after a new wave of COVID-19 infections.

“Towards the end of this season we’ll get towards 2 billion pounds ($2.78 billion) lost since the start of the pandemic in matchday and broadcast revenue,” said Masters.

“Clubs have continued to invest in competitive match-day squads and the Premier League has continued to make good all of its contributions throughout the pyramid and wider football.

“But the ramifications are that ultimately if there’s less money coming into football, then there’ll be less money going out in the short term.”

Should the vaccination programme in the UK go according to plan, Masters is optimistic football in Britain could be back to normal next season.

“From the beginning of next season, our goal is to have full stadia and the Governmentยดs roadmap offers us that opportunity,” he explained.

Masters also said players will continue to take a knee until the end of the season as the ‘No Room for Racism’ campaign continues to seek positive changes in football and society.

“You will see for the rest of this season more anti-racism messages on player’s shirts and the continuation of taking the knee until the end of the season,” he told Sky Sports.

“We will discuss with the players in the close season what we are going to do to continue to make our feelings clear about anti-discrimination messaging going forward.”

($1 = 0.7183 pounds) (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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