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Government deliver update on when Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham fans can return to stadiums

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden says now is not the time to give a potential date for Arsenal,Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur fans to return to football.

Plans were originally in place to see fans return to stadiums from October 1 but a rise in coronavirus cases put a stop to that.

It has plunged many EFL and non-League clubs into financial uncertainty but, speaking on BBC Breakfast, Dowden said the government cannot commit to allowing fans back into games in the short-term.

He said: “That was the plan and that’s something we ideally wanted to happen and had been working towards.

“We’d gone through this phased reopening of football.

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“For example, very early on, football was one of the first sports to return behind closed doors, we facilitated that with games free-to-view on the BBC and others.

“The next stage was due to be on October 1 to enjoy fans back in socially-distanced circumstances.

“We worked very closely with the clubs to mitigate the risks surrounding that.

“Ultimately, though, against this backdrop of rapidly rising infections, I think people will appreciate now is not the time to do that, to add to the risk of infection spreading by making further easements.”

While Dowden says the government are continuing to look at ways for fans to return safely, it will be a case of getting coronavirus rates back under control before this can happen.

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He said: “There are risks associated with that and, at the time, we were making no easements at all from October 1.

“Indeed, we were looking to impose further restrictions.

“Now is not the time to do it.

“I can assure you that I’m working intensively to see when we can do this as soon as it’s safe to do so, once we get the disease under control.

“We’re not sitting on our laurels.

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