Premier League provides funding for return of WSL fans

Matchday Support Fund to also help make non-league and Welsh grounds safer.

3 September 2020 PA

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  • 65 leagues and more than 1,100 clubs able to benefit from financial support
  • Up to 1,000 fans allowed to attend WSL West Ham v Arsenal match this month

The Premier League, English soccer’s top flight, has launched a fund to help clubs in non-league, women’s football and the Welsh top division prepare for the safe return of fans to their grounds.

The ‘Matchday Support Fund’ will help sides put measures in place to make stadiums safer for the 2020/21 season, considering the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Government and Football Association (FA) guidelines for the return of soccer and spectators at this level were recently published.

On 1st September it was announced West Ham’s top flight Women’s Super League (WSL) match against Arsenal on 12th September will see a maximum of 1,000 fans allowed to attend as part of the government’s pilot scheme permitting people to attend sports events.

The grants, managed by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, are open to National League system clubs in steps one to six, and women’s clubs in tiers one to five, as well as the Welsh Premier League. The window closes on 16th September.

In total, 65 leagues and more than 1,100 clubs will be able to benefit from this financial support, the Premier League said in a statement.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “As football matches across the country begin to resume, the safety of everyone remains of paramount importance.

“It is crucial that clubs are able to adapt their stadiums and grounds to allow games to be played and also for supporters to return to the stands. We are doing everything we can to get fans back into Premier League stadiums, but we also want to help clubs throughout the football pyramid to do the same.

“I’m pleased that, beyond our existing support to the wider game, the Premier League is able to offer this additional funding via our Football Stadia Improvement Fund.

“We hope this will help more than 1,000 men’s and women’s teams across different leagues get matchday ready and safely welcome fans back into their grounds, in line with Government guidance.”

The announcement follows the recent provision of the Pitch and Club Preparation Funds, which saw UK£8.7million (US$11.5 million) in grants from the Premier League, the FA and UK government’s Football Foundation awarded to prepare playing surfaces and facilities for the return of soccer.

In June, the Premier League committed to making additional contributions of UK£200,000 (US$265,000) to help the National League season conclude and more than UK£1 million (US$1.3 million) to aid the start of the 2020/21 WSL and the Women’s Championship campaigns.

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of the women’s game, has said she is “desperate” to see fans return ahead of the launch of the new WSL season, which kicks off on 5th September.

Chelsea were awarded the title for 2019/20, which was brought to a premature halt in May amid the Covid-19 pandemic, on a points-per-game basis.

“We’re obviously desperate to see the return of fans, they’re such a key part of the game and we’re working to get fans back as quickly as possible, ” Simmons said.

“Next step for that for us will be the West Ham v Arsenal game in week two where we’re allowed 1,000 fans in, which will be a key step forward in terms of our work with the government to give confidence that we’re able to get football back as quickly as possible and hopefully we can do with that.

“The government, October is their timeline (for the return of spectators) and hopefully we can do all we can to make sure that we meet that together and have as many fans back in as quickly as possible.”

A number of matches are set to be shown on television this year, in addition to the FA Player, including three matches on the league’s launch weekend. Manchester United v Chelsea will be shown on pay-TV network BT Sport, while Arsenal’s clash with Reading will be available on BBC Online and the red button.

BT Sport will also be showing a minimum of 22 Women’s Super League matches, with new overseas broadcast deals made with the likes of Australia, Scandinavia, South America, Germany, Italy and the US.

Simmons outlined the possibilities offered by broadcast schedules, adding: “We’ve got the launch game when there’s no men’s football – but then obviously the Premier League starts – and just getting the Community Shield in as well it just feels like there’s a couple of weeks where the profile is on the women’s game.”

In terms of regulations, there will be a smaller pool of referees this year and the WSL has kept it’s salary caps at 40 per cent of turnover. However, the league will bring in home-grown quotas in line with the men’s game from the 2021/22 season, meaning eight members of the squad will have to be home grown.

The Premier League, English soccer’s top flight, has launched a fund to help clubs in non-league, women’s football and the Welsh top division prepare for the safe return of fans to their grounds.

The ‘Matchday Support Fund’ will help sides put measures in place to make stadiums safer for the 2020/21 season, considering the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Government and Football Association (FA) guidelines for the return of soccer and spectators at this level were recently published.

On 1st September it was announced West Ham’s top flight Women’s Super League (WSL) match against Arsenal on 12th September will see a maximum of 1,000 fans allowed to attend as part of the government’s pilot scheme permitting people to attend sports events.

The grants, managed by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund, are open to National League system clubs in steps one to six, and women’s clubs in tiers one to five, as well as the Welsh Premier League. The window closes on 16th September.

In total, 65 leagues and more than 1,100 clubs will be able to benefit from this financial support, the Premier League said in a statement.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: “As football matches across the country begin to resume, the safety of everyone remains of paramount importance.

“It is crucial that clubs are able to adapt their stadiums and grounds to allow games to be played and also for supporters to return to the stands. We are doing everything we can to get fans back into Premier League stadiums, but we also want to help clubs throughout the football pyramid to do the same.

“I’m pleased that, beyond our existing support to the wider game, the Premier League is able to offer this additional funding via our Football Stadia Improvement Fund.

“We hope this will help more than 1,000 men’s and women’s teams across different leagues get matchday ready and safely welcome fans back into their grounds, in line with Government guidance.”

The announcement follows the recent provision of the Pitch and Club Preparation Funds, which saw UK£8.7million (US$11.5 million) in grants from the Premier League, the FA and UK government’s Football Foundation awarded to prepare playing surfaces and facilities for the return of soccer.

In June, the Premier League committed to making additional contributions of UK£200,000 (US$265,000) to help the National League season conclude and more than UK£1 million (US$1.3 million) to aid the start of the 2020/21 WSL and the Women’s Championship campaigns.

Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of the women’s game, has said she is “desperate” to see fans return ahead of the launch of the new WSL season, which kicks off on 5th September.

Chelsea were awarded the title for 2019/20, which was brought to a premature halt in May amid the Covid-19 pandemic, on a points-per-game basis.

“We’re obviously desperate to see the return of fans, they’re such a key part of the game and we’re working to get fans back as quickly as possible, ” Simmons said.

“Next step for that for us will be the West Ham v Arsenal game in week two where we’re allowed 1,000 fans in, which will be a key step forward in terms of our work with the government to give confidence that we’re able to get football back as quickly as possible and hopefully we can do with that.

“The government, October is their timeline (for the return of spectators) and hopefully we can do all we can to make sure that we meet that together and have as many fans back in as quickly as possible.”

A number of matches are set to be shown on television this year, in addition to the FA Player, including three matches on the league’s launch weekend. Manchester United v Chelsea will be shown on pay-TV network BT Sport, while Arsenal’s clash with Reading will be available on BBC Online and the red button.

BT Sport will also be showing a minimum of 22 Women’s Super League matches, with new overseas broadcast deals made with the likes of Australia, Scandinavia, South America, Germany, Italy and the US.

Simmons outlined the possibilities offered by broadcast schedules, adding: “We’ve got the launch game when there’s no men’s football – but then obviously the Premier League starts – and just getting the Community Shield in as well it just feels like there’s a couple of weeks where the profile is on the women’s game.”

In terms of regulations, there will be a smaller pool of referees this year and the WSL has kept it’s salary caps at 40 per cent of turnover. However, the league will bring in home-grown quotas in line with the men’s game from the 2021/22 season, meaning eight members of the squad will have to be home grown.