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Premier League chief Richard Masters encouraged by trial of fans in stadium

Premier League chief Richard Masters encouraged by trial of fans in stadium
© Reuters
The Sport Tech Innovation Group will explore high-tech solutions to allow more fans into stadia.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has hailed the test event for the partial return of supporters as a success following Brighton's friendly with Chelsea at the Amex Stadium.

Brighton admitted 2,524 supporters for Saturday's 1-1 draw, with strict social distancing measures in place around the ground and for seating in the sparsely populated stands.

The game was part of a number of pilot events announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for a phased return of spectators following the ban on mass gatherings introduced in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Brighton & Hove Albion did a fantastic job at their test event for the return of supporters and it was great to see fans in a Premier League stadium for the first time since March," Masters said.

Brighton
Brighton fans adhering to social distancing measures while watching their side's friendly with Chelsea (Adam Davy/PA)

"The success of having 2,500 supporters in the Amex was very encouraging and we are committed to having full stadia as soon as possible, with safety always our priority. We are working hard alongside our clubs, the Government and the safety authorities to achieve this."

There were plenty of hand sanitisation points on the approaches to the ground, while face coverings were also required for fans while they were queuing to get in, although not while seated.

A digital match ticket was scanned for entry into the stadium, with cashless transactions at kiosks and there was signage reminding fans of the need to regularly wash hands.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber added: "We are delighted – it went as well as it possibly could have.

"Credit to our fans – they followed the guidelines, listened to requests from our stewards and, even at the end, when they stayed on to listen to the managers' pitchside interviews on our stadium screens, they remained in their seats and observed social distancing."

On Sunday the Government announced the formation of the Sport Tech Innovation Group, which will include the Premier League and other sporting bodies, to explore high-tech solutions to allow more fans into stadiums.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said this weekend marked "an important milestone" in the recovery of sport.

He added: "I am doing everything I can to get fans back in the stands, following the teams and enjoying the sports they love. Sport's economic health depends on their return to stadiums, too.

"I commend the clubs, players, stewards, emergency services and everyone else for their hard work to get us this far. We have blown the starting whistle on fans returning safely, but our work is not done until every fan is back where they belong."

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