Leicester City have been cleared to continue playing matches at the King Power Stadium despite the city being placed under new lockdown measures this week.
The decision was taken after meetings between the club, local government, the local safety advisory group and the Premier League. Contingency plans remain in place should circumstances change, with the club saying they remain “agile to the evolving nature of the situation”.
In a statement released after a day of negotiations on Tuesday, the club said: “All parties remain entirely satisfied that, through the continued implementation of our Covid-19 operations plan, the Club’s football operations can continue to safely function under existing protocols and, in doing so, there will be no greater risk posed to Club personnel, visiting teams or our surrounding communities. Consequently, first team training will continue at Belvoir Drive and our forthcoming Premier League fixtures remain unaffected.”
Leicester are due to host Crystal Palace at the King Power stadium at 3pm on Saturday as Brendan Rodger’s team continue their pursuit of a Champions League place.
There had been uncertainty earlier in the day after the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Masters, told the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee that playing matches at neutral venues or postponement of fixtures could be possible.
“We are waiting to hear but if what is happening in Leicester does affect their ability to host home games, either the match on Saturday against Crystal Palace or subsequent matches, we have the opportunity to put them elsewhere or postpone the matches until it is safe to [play them]”, he said. “Contingency plans are part of our overall planning.”
Masters went on to say the league could “clearly” cope with localised outbreaks of Covid-19 as it continues attempts to complete the season, with 27 of the remaining 92 games having been played.
If several locations were forced to return into lockdown, Masters admitted the season could be curtailed. “There’s always a possibility of the season not being completed,” he said. “It’s dependent on the course of the virus and the government’s response.
“We’re responding to Leicester now and planning to adapt to the neutral venues model if necessary. We can clearly cope with the situation in Leicester, we can adapt to that. If it were to happen in multiple areas there is that risk we cannot complete the season.”
As part of the restart process the league’s 20 clubs agreed to defer discussions on the details of curtailment until it became a likely possibility.
As well as Palace, Leicester are due to play two other teams at the King Power Stadium: Sheffield United in the week beginning Monday 13 July and a final fixture against Manchester United on Sunday 26 July.
Leicester reiterated the request that fans stay away from their home stadium to help prevent the further spread of Covid-19 after the government took action on Monday night to curtail a sharp rise in the number of infections in the city.
“Through the implementation of a robust and comprehensive Covid-19 operations plan, the Club is fully committed to playing its part in controlling the spread of the virus in our communities, while safely ensuring we can continue to operate and represent those communities on the pitch,” the club said. “We urge our supporters in the city to stay home where possible and to continue to follow the latest localised advice, available at www.leicester.gov.uk.”