The Premier League is unlikely to readmit supporters until next season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, its chief executive Richard Masters has admitted.
And as COVID-19 cases keep rising in England, clubs should practise celebrating goals safely in training to “get the hang of it”, Masters also believes.
The English top-flight lobbied hard in the autumn for the Government to provide a road map for the safe return of spectators to sports venues amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Capacities of up to 2,000 were briefly allowed at some grounds when the regionalised tier system came into effect in early December but a variant strain of the virus has led to a sharp rise in infections and forced another national lockdown.
Asked if he was preparing for no further fans to be allowed in for the remainder of the season, Masters told Sky Sports News: “We are prepared for it.
“The focus now is on completing the season.
“We don’t know when fans are going to be allowed back. It’s difficult to guess.
“Obviously we’re hugely optimistic that the vaccination programme will have returned this country to some sense of normality and we can have fans back from the start of next season.”
On the pitch, players have faced criticism this week for hugging and kissing as they celebrate goals, in breach of Premier League protocols.
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard said he would consider encouraging his players to avoid celebrating in training, and Masters said: “If every club does that, then they will get the hang of it.”
“All sport is played in the moment, with emotion. If we set ourselves the target of perfection, we will fall short.
“All we’re asking is that players adjust to the situation. I think they understand that we’re in a fortunate position, where we’re able to ply our trade while millions of others aren’t.”
Manchester City’s players were among those who were criticised after they gathered together to celebrate Phil Foden’s goal against Brighton on Wednesday.
City manager Pep Guardiola, whose mother died in April after contracting coronavirus, said everyone at the club is doing all they can but insisted the behaviour of footballers would not have any influence on the progression of the pandemic.
“We are going to do our best to follow the new rules. The scientists, (they) inform us what we have to do – but please, the situation that is happening in the UK is not due to football players.”