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Fans return to English stadiums called off after rise in coronavirus cases

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October plan for return of fans to UK stadiums set for delay

Even the world's richest soccer league is anxious that it can't function as normal much longer without fans in the stands.

Supporters will not be allowed back into Premier League stadiums yet as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has predicted that new government restrictions created to contain the spread of coronavirus could be in place for the next six months.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament that, as part of new restrictions to tackle a second wave of COVID-19, the government was putting on hold plans for 25-33% capacities from October 1.

"Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them", the league said in a statement. "Last season, Premier League clubs suffered 700 million pounds ($897 million) in losses and at present, our national game is losing more than 100 million pounds ($128 million) per month". This is starting to have a devastating impact on clubs and their communities.

"We do need the Premier League or government, or whoever it is, to step in and help out football clubs that would go to the wall if that is not forthcoming", he said.

Premiership Rugby confirmed this affected the game between Bath and Gloucester on Tuesday and Bristol against Leicester next week. The rate of new reported cases in the U.S. over the past week is 77 per 100,000 people, an increase of 11 per cent.

Pilot test events have been held across sports venues with capacity restricted at 1,000.

The Premier League believes it is capable of hosting matches in front of socially-distanced crowds now but realises it is not an argument they can win in the short term, even if their lobbying of Government will continue. All stadiums in the top six divisions in England, covering the Premier League, EFL and National League, have been closed to fans since lockdown measures were imposed due to the pandemic in mid-March. This is already evident in other European leagues.

It said that it was confident that clubs, with innovative ways of getting spectators back into grounds, would see revenues return.

And with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing new restrictions on society on Tuesday which are expected to be in place for six months, there is now a real prospect of football having to survive without paying spectators for up to a year since the start of the pandemic.

Michael Gove said people should work from home if they can do so.

The Rugby Football Union had hoped to have around 20,000 fans at Twickenham for England's game against the Barbarians on October 25 but have now suspended ticket sales.

The partial reopening would have given sports a funding boost after months of empty stadiums. Forest Green was allowed 1,000 fans on Saturday for the League Two game against Bradford but now there will be no more pilot events for the foreseeable future.

While some clubs are sceptical about providing EFL clubs with a handout, others - primarily the smaller clubs - are far more sympathetic.

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