Brighton boss Potter calls for safe return of fans to grounds

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Everton v Brighton & Hove Albion - Goodison Park, Liverpool, Britain - October 3, 2020 Brighton & Hove Albion manager Graham Potter looks dejected after the match Pool via REUTERS/Alex Livesey

(Reuters) - English football stadiums have the facilities to welcome back supporters while adhering to social distancing norms amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Brighton & Hove Albion manager Graham Potter said on Thursday.

Matches in the Premier League have been played without fans since June and plans for the return of limited crowd capacity from October were postponed amid a rise in the novel coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters on Wednesday made a case for fans' return to live sports after an audience was allowed into the London Palladium theatre last week for an event and Potter echoed his views.

"I feel a bit of a fraud speaking without the full info but my gut instinct says I agree with him," Potter said ahead of Sunday's league trip to Crystal Palace.

"We're allowed to go into pubs, we're allowed to go indoors, we're allowed to be at events and I think football has the capacity to socially distance, to organise themselves, to allow supporters back in."

The absence of supporters at live games will be debated in the British parliament on Nov. 9 after a petition to approve their return received more than 196,000 signatures.

"I think the longer it (lack of audience) goes on, it's very upsetting to see. The quicker that we can get supporters back, the better," Potter said.

Palace sit three places and three points above 15th-placed Brighton heading into the weekend's match.

Brighton forward Aaron Connolly is a doubt after picking up a couple of injury issues during Ireland's 1-0 defeat by Finland on Wednesday.

"Aaron Connolly had a heavy knock in the first half last night, had a nasty fall, so he's just checking out his wrist and a bit of a jarred neck," said Potter. "We are just seeing how he recovers."

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Chennai; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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