FUMING Prem clubs face a further £450m black hole after the Government confirmed next season will start without fans inside grounds.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport confirmed a series of “pilot events” with spectators this summer, including the World Snooker Championships and Glorious Goodwood.
But as SunSport revealed, turnstiles will not be routinely opened until at least October 1.
That means the first three weekends of the new campaign will be played behind closed doors, costing clubs around £90m between them in lost gate receipts, with Spurs and Manchester United missing out on more than £5 for every match played behind closed doors.
And even when the gates are opened, clubs understand that they will be allowed a maximum of 25 per cent of capacity inside, with the government confirming that “social distancing restriction” will be in place.
SunSport also revealed that clubs are set to hold ballots of season ticket holders to determine who is allowed inside.
But with the restrictions likely to be in place until the end of the year – and potentially even longer of the feared second wave of the coronavirus strikes – it means Prem clubs are looking at a shortfall of £450m-plus between them.
The news was a body blow for clubs, who had hoped that putting the new campaign back to the likely September 12 start date would allow fans in from the beginning.
One prominent club chief said: “That was not what we wanted to hear, at all.
“We recognise it’s down to the government and it looks like we will only be able to have 20-25 per cent of our normal capacity, which adds up to an awful lot of money.
“At this stage, there’s not a lot we can do about it.
“Maybe there will be a rethink by October. We have to hope so.”
This season’s shutdown and ground closures to fans have already cost clubs a £330m television rebate in addition to the lost gate receipts of around £270m.
It has left a number of clubs in considerable short-term financial distress with Spurs taking up a £175m loan from the Bank of England and United borrowing £140m from Bank of America.
In addition to the snooker and racing events, two county cricket friendlies, including Surrey against Middlesex at The Oval later this month, will be staged.
DCMS said: “There are also likely to be further pilot events for other sports to build up and prepare for the full, socially distanced return of sporting events from 1 October 2020.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “For months millions of us have felt the void of being unable to go to the match to support our team or attend a top-class sporting event.
“So I am pleased that we are now able to move forward with a plan to help venues safely reopen their doors to fans.
“By working closely with sports and medical experts, these pilots will help ensure the safe return of fans to stadia.
“Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country.”
But the Government will only give the green light for spectators if they agree to a “new code of behaviour” taking personal responsibility for their health and safety and that of other fans.
Clubs must also “minimise of the numbers of tickets sold to a predefined safe capacity”, with supporters urged to avoid public transport and to follow new “controlled entry and exit” systems in modified venues.