A senior Government advisor has warned the whole of the next football season in England could be played without full stadia if chanting by fans is proven to increase the risk of coronavirus transmission.
The Premier League returned in June after a three-month shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic and every game has taken place behind closed doors since.
There is hope that games could have reduced attendances in the autumn, while test events with reduced capacity crowds started with a cricket friendly last week and more are planned.
A government advisor has warned the next football season could face reduced crowds
Tests are ongoing to determine if chanting increased the chances of coronavirus transmission
But the chair of the cross-sport working group, who works with the Government and health chiefs on the return of sport post-coronavirus, believes it is highly unlikely that stadia will be at maximum capacity before the end of the year.
‘I would be very surprised if we could get full stadia back this year,’ Professor James Calder told BBC Sport.
‘Realistically I think it probably will need a vaccine and also a high take-up rate of that vaccine before we can really see full capacity stadia.
‘I think realistically we will be under scrutiny for the next year, certainly this side of Christmas and probably for the rest of the season.’
Calder also revealed that testing is underway to discover if chanting by fans could lead to a bigger risk of spreading coronavirus.
The Oval hosted the first test event with spectators since March in a two-day friendly last week
He added: ‘We need to know, actually, does it matter if you’re shouting, how far will those droplets spread?
‘At a football or a rugby match, the fans are going to be shouting and chanting and singing, I hope, and we need to be sure that the people in front of them are as safe as possible.
‘Now if there is no massive droplet spread, well OK, we can keep within the social distancing that we’ve put down for, say, the Crucible and The Oval.
‘But if it is a problem, then we need to rethink the social distancing within the stadia, and that becomes very difficult.’
Surrey’s two-day friendly against Middlesex at the Oval saw 1,000 members attend while the same number will be able to watch the second day of Warwickshire’s pre-season derby with Worcestershire on Tuesday.
There are more trials scheduled for this weekend when the ECB’s four-day Bob Willis Trophy begins with 2,500 spectators allowed to attend each day at The Oval and Edgbaston.