Return of fans a big boost for lower-tier clubs, says EFL chief Parry


FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - League One - Crewe Alexandra v Peterborough United - The Alexandra Stadium, Crewe, Britain - November 14, 2020 EFL chairman Rick Parry in the stands Action Images/Carl Recine

(Reuters) - The return of supporters to outdoor elite sporting events in England is a lifeline for lower-tier soccer clubs that have suffered huge financial losses amid the COVID-19 pandemic, English Football League (EFL) chairman Rick Parry said.

Up to 4,000 fans can attend sports events in the lowest-risk tier one areas of England, and 2,000 in tier two areas, when the month-long national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus is lifted on Dec. 2, the British government said on Monday.

The move comes as a relief to the EFL, which represents the three divisions below the Premier League, after a tense period due to gate losses for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns.

"We welcome the prime minister's announcement because we've been pushing for the return of fans for some considerable time," Parry said on BBC Radio 4.

"We do recognise the problems the country has been facing particularly during the second lockdown. We've to build upon it because what we're really looking forward to is getting fans back in more substantial numbers.

"At League One and League Two level it could be significant. It's not just the money, it's a welcome return to an atmosphere, and if we get 4,000 at League Two level... it can be a very welcome lifeline."

Parry, whose organisation recently accepted a rescue package proposed by the Premier League to cover their losses, said they hoped to move some fixtures scheduled for Dec. 1 by a day to allow fans into stadiums.

But with the government set to announce on Thursday which areas will go into which tier, there remain hurdles.

"We have a number of games taking place on Dec. 1, in theory we'll be as flexible as we can if they can be moved to Dec. 2... we'll need permissions from safety advisory groups... so it's one step at a time," Parry said.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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