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Bundesliga's lack of fans is a plus ahead of possible restart

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Silence of the stands: Mainz’s Aaron Caricol takes a corner in a deserted stadium during the Bundesliga clash away to Cologne. Photo: Lars Baron/Reuters

Silence of the stands: Mainz’s Aaron Caricol takes a corner in a deserted stadium during the Bundesliga clash away to Cologne. Photo: Lars Baron/Reuters

REUTERS

Silence of the stands: Mainz’s Aaron Caricol takes a corner in a deserted stadium during the Bundesliga clash away to Cologne. Photo: Lars Baron/Reuters

The Premier League has drawn encouragement from fans staying away from Bundesliga grounds as it continues to work with its clubs on how the English top-flight season can be completed on a home-and-away basis.

It is understood clubs were told on May 1 that using eight to 10 approved neutral venues was the only way the 2019-20 season could be completed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the league held further talks with police and Government representatives last week to keep open the possibility of clubs' own stadia being used.

The German top flight resumed at the weekend, and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters felt the early signs were good in many ways, not least the lack of supporters congregating outside venues.

"All in all, I thought it was good. The other thing is we didn't have, in any of the games, any fan issues, congregations or gatherings to speak of. It was a positive start for the Bundesliga," he said.

Asked whether that might help boost the argument for home-and-away matches in England, he added: "It's early days, we've only had eight games. We need to see how it all pans out. But it was interesting to note that.

"In terms of venues, we are working with clubs. We had a meeting last week with the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), the police and the SGSA (Sports Grounds Safety Authority) and DCMS asked football to come forward with its proposals.

"We are planning to do that, working in conjunction with the EFL (English Football League) and have asked our clubs for lots of information. It's an ongoing discussion."

One of the criticisms of the Bundesliga experience was the lack of atmosphere at matches.

Masters said a working group had been set up to ensure the product for viewers at home was as appealing as possible.

"In terms of the precise nature of what we are planning, we haven't really talked about it with the wide group yet so I don't want to share too much of the plans," he said.

Issue

"But obviously the big issue is that if there aren't fans in the stadium, what does the viewing fan at home, what's his experience like? And how different is it to a normal Premier League production and that's the question we're seeking to answer."

Premier League clubs will be subjected to no-notice spot-checks to ensure they are complying with pandemic training protocols, while the league has also committed to making every positive Covid-19 test public knowledge.

The league's director of football Richard Garlick said it was important for every club to have confidence that their rivals were sticking to the rules, and said the league had given thought to how to police it.

"We can request information from videoing of the sessions and GPS data, too," he said.

"We are also looking at bringing in our own independent audit inspection team that we'll scale up over the next few days which will give us the ability to have inspections at training grounds to start with on a no-notice basis.

"Gradually, we aim to ramp that up so we can have an inspector at every training ground. That will enable us to give everyone confidence that the protocols are being complied with, and give the public confidence that we are trying to create a very safe working environment."