Culture secretary explains to Brighton how football can return behind closed doors

Brighton and Hove Albion still hope to finish their Premier League campaign behind closed doors.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 9:49 am
Updated Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 9:50 am

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden outlined conditions the Premier League need to meet if football is to return behind closed doors.

The Premier League has been suspended since March 13 due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Albion's last fixture was their 0-0 draw at Wolves on March 7.

Brighton, along with many other Premier League clubs, have expressed their desire to resume and complete the season when and if it is safe to do so.

The Amex Stadium

There is growing acceptance the only way is behind closed doors. Even that however remains far from certain.

Dowden appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Wednesday afternoon and disscussed the possibility of the sport resuming without fans.

“I personally have spoken to the Premier League while officials in my department are engaging across all the sports,” he said.

“We've actually had quite productive conversations. This would only be if A: We passed the five tests. B. Could we ensure it was done consistent with the existing measures in place around that time for social distancing C.

"Would we be content that it sent the correct signals?

"We wouldn't want to be sending a signal that life has gone back to normal when we're still asking people to take measures to protect their public health.

“Within that, we've already had productive discussions. We've already engaged, for example, with the Police, Public Health England, local government association, and others, so we are progressing this.

“I really want to get to a point where we have bottomed out. Dealt with all the practicalities of it and then if the wider circumstances permit, we would seek permission through COBRA and others to do it.

“That is not what we are talking about right now but I want to make sure we do all the preparatory work.

Dowden explained the tests that could apply before sport can be contested behind closed doors.

“I think there is the safety of the participants. If you took football and horse racing, for example, it would be quite difficult to have the participants acting in a social distancing way,” he said.

“How would we resolve the social distancing part of it? It's not insurmountable but it's an extra consideration.

“The other extra consideration, in respects, of sports is that it has a much wider cultural significance and public engagement, I would want to make sure that the signals we are sending from that were consistent with the signals we are sending to the public more broadly.

“I think it's sensible to have the engagement, think through it but I have been clear in all the conversations I have had that all of this is without prejudice.

“Let's do the work and we will make the decision at the appropriate point in accordance with the scientific evidence.”

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