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Arsenal launches hospitality venture amid attendance impasse

Premier League club Arsenal has commenced offering hospitality screening packages at Emirates Stadium as English football teams seek to adapt to the Government’s ongoing stance regarding fan attendance at games.

Arsenal has launched a members’ screening venture for its Premier League trip to face Manchester City on October 17. An ‘Invincibles Package’, priced from £49 (€54/$63) for adults or £29 for children, will provide a live match screening on giant TV walls in Dial Square at Emirates Stadium.

A ‘Marble Package’ for the live match screening from a private table in The WM lounge and restaurant is priced at £338, £676 and £1,014 for tables of two, four and six, respectively. The same package, but for booths of four or six, is priced at £716 and £1,074.

Sky Sports reports the screening packages will be limited to away games only, with a maximum of 368 fans allowed to attend. Those attending will have to follow standard COVID-19 regulations including having their temperatures checked before entry, provide track and trace details and wear face masks at all times, unless seated.

Fans have also reportedly been asked to adhere to a strict code of conduct which includes no singing, shouting or loud cheering. They must also avoid bodily contact with fans outside of their party.

Arsenal’s move comes with the English Football League (EFL) having written to its member clubs on Wednesday requesting details of how they could get fans back into stadia. Hospitality packages are seen to be a means of doing this, but clubs are said to have been told stadium screenings “must not have sight of the pitch”.

The Premier League, EFL and Football Association (FA) this week called on the Government to apply “consistency in their policy” when it comes to spectator attendance, as a petition launched to support the return of fans sailed through the threshold needed for parliament consideration.

English football’s three main governing bodies issued a joint statement ramping up pressure on the Government to reverse its stance on fan attendance in the men’s and women’s game. The statement came after the Sports Technology and Innovation Group (STIG), a body formed by the Government to explore means of returning fans to venues, staged its first meeting on September 24.

The STIG met after the announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the planned socially distanced return of fans to English sports stadia from October 1 had been postponed, due to the rise in COVID-19 infection rates across the country. Following test events across football, rugby union, cricket, snooker and basketball, the pilot programme for the return of spectators to sporting events was also postponed.

The joint statement from the Premier League, EFL and FA came amid rising fan discontent on social media, where the hashtag #letfansin has become popular. Indeed, a supporters’ petition entitled “Allow football fans to attend matches at all levels” has been launched, gaining backing from EFL and Premier League clubs.

As of 11am GMT today (Friday), the petition had gathered 190,541 signatures. Government responds to all petitions that get more than 10,000 signatures, while those with more than 100,000 signatures are considered for a debate.

Image: Arsenal