Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for the U.K. government's department of digital, culture, media, and sport (DCMS), has told key figures in English football he's pushing for fans to return to stadiums in December, sources told ESPN's James Olley.
The U.K. is in a nationwide lockdown until Dec. 2, and Dowden reportedly wants supporters back at grounds soon after that date.
Dowden reportedly spoke Tuesday with representatives from the Premier League, the Football Association, the English Football League (EFL), the Professional Footballers' Association, anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, and the Football Supporters' Association.
The meeting was apparently prompted by delays around a Premier League rescue package for lower-league clubs; approximately 10 EFL outfits are reportedly at risk of being unable to pay players and staff in November.
Allowing fans back into stadiums would ease some of the financial burden on the country's ailing sides, but reintroductions are expected to be gradual. Olley reports the U.K. government plans to return to a tiered system of restrictions at the end of the current lockdown, with the DCMS hoping limited fan attendance will be permitted at football venues in areas under the lowest tier.
A proposal for in-person attendance at stadiums has not yet been approved, Olley notes.
The distribution of relief funding was also reportedly discussed during the meeting. The parties apparently reached a general consensus that parachute payments made by the Premier League to relegated clubs must be changed and that funds should be distributed more evenly throughout the EFL. It's believed the EFL is requesting £250 million to address the financial shortfall triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.