(Reuters) - The English Football League (EFL) said on Tuesday it has received government approval to stage pilot events where up to 1,000 fans can attend matches at stadiums this month.
Football has been played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic but some clubs have staged test events with a limited number of fans, with social distancing protocols in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The return of fans to stadiums has been high on the agenda of clubs across the country due to the financial strain caused by the lack of income from ticket sales.
"The EFL remains in discussions with the government about the pilot programme which may include a limited number of further pilot matches during September with capacity limited to 1,000," an EFL spokesman said.
"The League is clear in its view that social distancing can be applied safely in football stadia and that having crowds at matches is an absolutely essential part of helping to protect club finances, which remain under extreme pressure.
"Therefore, the successful delivery of further pilots will be an important step towards getting larger number of fans into grounds safely."
The EFL added that it would collect insights from these events and hold discussions with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) for the planned return of fans in October.
Last week, the Premier League said it would defer test events with fans as the government's decision to cap the number of spectators at 1,000 was not feasible and would be "heavily loss-making".
Premier League chief Richard Masters predicted the 20 top flight clubs would lose a combined 700 million pounds ($899.29 million) if fans are barred from stadiums this season.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)
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