Parliament will hold a debate next month over whether to allow football fans to attend elite level matches.
A petition calling for a return of supporters to grounds across the county has received more than 196,000 signatures, with the debate scheduled for Monday, November 9.
The Government paused its plans for the partial return of fans to stadiums last month because of a rapid spike in coronavirus cases, with the warning it could be six months before spectators can return to sports venues.
- If theatres can open, why can’t stadiums?
Football supporters and governing bodies have criticised the continued ban on crowds at sporting events, which has seen matches played behind closed doors since March, with the exception of some test events in August and September.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told MPs on Wednesday that his Government are “doing things that are positively hateful, but the reason we are doing it is to secure public safety”.
He accepted there has been “inconsistency” after spectators were allowed into the London Palladium theatre for an event with former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, but outdoor sports venues remained closed.
“In relation to sport, we had sports on a path to normality,” he told the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee. “At that time I was being attacked by the arts for prioritising sports.
“The next stage was to have pilots to move to a point from October 1 whereby we would be able to have socially-distanced spectators in stadiums. That is what I desperately wanted to happen. Because of where we are with the disease, it has not been possible to have that further easement.”
Many clubs have warned they are on the brink of financial collapse unless turnstiles reopen or a bailout is agreed.
The English Football League will discuss the £50m rescue package offered by the Premier League to League One and League Two clubs on Thursday after Project Big Picture was rejected at an emergency meeting.
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