Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston says he is “very comfortable” with Premier League stadiums being allowed to operate at maximum capacity when the new season begins.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced an end to all lockdown restrictions from July 19, in a move that will provide a huge boost to football clubs around the UK who have operated with either no fans or severely restricted numbers since March last year.
Huddleston says the impressive vaccination rollout has been the key behind taking another step towards normality – and adds the return of fans in stadiums will help kick-start the economy.
Asked about fans returning at maximum capacity, Huddleston told Sky Sports News: “I am very comfortable with it.
“I’m comfortable with it because a vast majority of the British public will be vaccinated and that will make a huge difference.
“It doesn’t mean you’re immune, people still need to be sensible and if you’ve got symptoms don’t go out, keep the tests going and if you get pinged you have to self-isolate.
“So we’ve still got certain systems and precautions in place to minimise the risks that are out there. But we have got to the stage where, given the incredible sacrifices that everybody in the country has made, it’s time now to start getting back to life a little bit more normal.
“As the Prime Minister said, ‘If we can’t open now, when we’ve had such success in the vaccination programme, when can we?’
“We need people to get out and about, we need sporting events to start going, not only because they lift the mood of the nation but they employ hundreds of thousands of people and are major economic contributors to the British economy.
“The NHS, our schools, our roads – they only get paid for because of taxes paid by economic activity and we need to get the economy moving again and people need their freedoms back as well.
“We’ve had restrictions out of necessity over the last few months and year, but it is absolutely time now to bank the benefits because of the sacrifices made and the huge success of the vaccination programme.”