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Bring back the fans: Ian Wright joins our appeal to open up football and sport safely for supporters

England football legend Ian Wright today leads a new Evening Standard campaign to bring sports fans back into stadiums “as fast as possible” as this paper reveals the huge cost to the economy and communities of banning supporters.

The Match Of The Day pundit argues that with the right hygiene and social-distancing protocols, football grounds such as the Emirates, Stamford Bridge or the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium can safely allow in some fans.

Supporters face being prevented from watching live sporting events in England until the end of March after the Government halted plans for a return because of rising Covid cases.

But critics say the technology is already available to allow fans of all live sports, including football and rugby, back in safely by New Year.

The demand comes as it emerged that: Playing games behind closed doors might have already cost London’s economy close to £1 billion from the loss of the spending by tens of thousands of football fans on match days. London clubs in all divisions are suffering, with Spurs fearing that it will cost them £200 million this year while Millwall is losing £1 million a month.

Technology bosses said that crowds of up to 30 per cent capacity are safely “possible and manageable” with the use of IT systems that monitor and control the movement of fans around grounds.

The Standard is also asking fans to back a petition started by sports enthusiast Ashley Greenwood urging the Government “to reconsider their judgement on not letting football fans back into the stadiums and reconsider doing this with the right safety measures in place surrounding Covid-19”. The petition has already been signed by more than 190,000 people, easily passing the 100,000 threshold needed to trigger a Parliamentary debate.

Wright, who scored 185 goals for Arsenal, said: “How can it be safer indoors than it would be outdoors at a football ground when there’s loads of distance between people. It’s obvious that football fans are being treated differently to theatre-goers or ballet-lovers. And that’s got to change.”

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