By Andrew Atkinson Chief sports editor
British Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has revealed the Premier League is considering making some behind closed doors fixtures available free-to-air – when the season re-starts.
“I have said to the Premier League it wouldn’t send the best signal if they were one of the first major sports to resume behind closed doors – and the public at large couldn’t have access to it,” Dowden, appointed BCS in February, told the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee.
The Premier League was considering the issue.
Football is suspended indefinitely across major European leagues – due to the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.
The UK government’s ban on mass gatherings was brought in – after Liverpool’s Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid at Anfield in March. Since severely criticised, along with the Cheltenham Festival.
“Throughout all of this we have based what we did on the scientific evidence we received both from Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) and from the medical officers.
“I spoke to them twice – and they met with the sporting bodies. The analysis was that in these events the risk is the people that are immediately in the row in front of you, the row behind you and either side.
“Now that risk is as great or as little as it would be, if you were watching it in the pub down the road on a big screen, if you were going on public transport to get to the event.
“So the advice that we were given was that, to act consistently, it might be appropriate at a point in the progress of the disease to ban all those sorts of activities – and indeed that is what we did.
“But there wasn’t a case for singling out mass gatherings from those other things. That is the approach we took,” said Dowden.
Discussions have taken place with the police, Public Health England and local government authorities regards to how sport might be able to return safely.
“I would just want to make sure that the signals we were sending from that were consistent with the signals that we were sending to the public more broadly.
“So I think it is sensible at this stage to have the engagement, to think through it, but I’ve been clear in all the conversations I’ve had that all of this is without prejudice.
“So let’s do the work – then we will make the decision at the appropriate point – clearly, number one, in accordance with the scientific evidence,” said Dowden.