The Premier League is considering screening some closed-door matches on free-to-air television when the season restarts, Britain’s Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden yesterday said.
Sky Sports and BT hold the UK TV rights for live top-flight matches in what remains of the 2019-20 season, which has been on hold since March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While no concrete date has been set for the Premier league’s resumption – clubs have either nine or 10 matches left to play – Mr Dowden said he has had “productive conversations” with the domestic football authorities about how they would resume activity in the event of lockdown measures being relaxed.
On how football would be broadcast if held behind closed doors, he told the British House of Commons’ digital, culture, media and sport committee: “I have said to the Premier League it wouldn’t send the best signal if they were one of the first major sports to resume behind closed doors and the public at large couldn’t have access to it.”
Mr Dowden, however, refused to speculate further on which platforms or channels would broadcast the free-to-air games.
“If they are being mindful of access points, that doesn’t just have to be going onto traditional terrestrial matches, or even showing all of the matches,” he said. “It is something they should be considering and they have said they are.”
He added that the government was in talks with the police, health authorities and local officials to prepare for a potential resumption. While everything remains in a state of flux, one thing that looks for certain is that fans will not be allowed to attend games for the near future.
As such, clubs are considering the use of fake crowd noise for closed-door matches, so as to create some sort of atmosphere.
“Could we make the stadium better than just blue empty seats in our case?” Brighton chief executive Paul Barber told The Times of London. “Could we look at noise being brought into the stadium?
“It would be strange (without a crowd), and football but not quite as we know it, but if that is the only way, then, of course, we have to get on with it.”