English Premier League clubs will be allowed to welcome reduced crowds of up to 4,000 back into stadiums following the UK government’s green light, yet some of its teams and the league itself are pushing for tech-based solutions such as digital health passports to eventually allow a return to full capacities.
Sporting grounds in the world’s most watched football league have remained closed since the UK’s first lockdown in March, apart from trials held in some competitions, which has had a massively negative financial impact.
Deloitte reported that the Premier League faces an estimated £1 billion loss in revenue due to the coronavirus, much of which is down to matches being played behind closed doors.
The Premier League is a member of the Government’s Sports Technology and Innovation Group, which is considering tech-based measures to allow more spectators to return to the terraces, including digital health passports and fast-track testing.
Tottenham and Arsenal lead calls for tech measures
North London giants Tottenham and Arsenal are among the Premier League clubs eager to host pilot events with a larger number of supporters from 2021, according to the Evening Standard.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has publicly voiced his support for tech solutions to allow fans to return to stadiums, including digital health passports.
“We have spent the past months preparing our stadium, testing our digital ticketing process and registering ID validation for fans,” Levy told the Guardian.
“Premier League clubs are entirely capable, similar to the experience in several other countries, of responsibly delivering outdoor events with social distancing, exemplary hygiene standards, qualified stewards, testing capabilities and diverse travel plans, operating in some of the most technologically advanced venues in the world.
“We recognise that health and safety are paramount and we have been encouraged by the latest news on vaccine developments and potential Clinical Passports.”
Such passports are currently being used by players to prove they are COVID-negative upon entering ‘Red Zones’ of stadiums.
The company responsible for this application is Prenetics, which maintains that such passports will be key in allowing spectators back into grounds.
“We provide health passports free to all stakeholders, and we will be extending that to fans,” Prenetics CEO Avi Lasarow told Standard Sport.
“Health passports will be a contributing factor to [the mass return of fans], as well as advanced entry systems into stadiums.”
However, with skepticism surrounding intrusive digital measures being imposed on society on the back of COVID-19, it remains to be seen just how willing football fans will be to the use of such health passports.