Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has voiced his concern that the return of the Premier League could facilitate a spread of coronavirus as he warned that fans will turn up at matches because of “human nature”.
Khan said earlier this month that it was “too early” to be discussing the prospect of top-flight matches being held in London and he has reiterated his fears following the announcement that the Premier League will return on June 17.
There remain concerns over whether supporters will turn up to matches being held behind closed doors, with authorities fearing that high-risk games might lead to congregations outside grounds.
“I am concerned about any action that could inadvertently lead to the virus spreading,” Khan told LBC. “Even though I am a south Londoner, I support Liverpool and that is why a small part of my brain is keen for us to return.
“But actually the bigger part of my brain is saying safety is what matters. All of us need cheering up - there is nothing more joyous for sports fans than watching sport on TV, even without the crowds - but we need to make sure we do not inadvertently give an opportunity to the virus to spread.
“I know, human nature as it is, fans will turn up to see the coach arriving, to listen to the atmosphere, the players inside the stadium even though they are not allowed in, to see the coach leaving, to buy t-shirts and scarves.”
Khan highlighted the north London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal as an example of a potentially high-risk fixture.
Premier League clubs will vote next week on a number of key issues for Project Restart, including whether high-profile matches should be played at neutral venues.
“Police and councils need to enforce the rules,” Khan said. “The overwhelming measures to social distancing are still there, the overwhelming measures to lockdown are still there. The key thing has got to be what is safe.
“We can't have fans congregating around the stadiums. We don't want Premier League clubs in London to have fans congregating... we have got Tottenham vs Arsenal coming up. It is really important clubs work with police and others to make sure we get this right.”