Premier League flexes financial muscle as fans flock back for new season

Saturday, August 14th, 2021 00:00 |
Leicester City’s English defender Ryan Bertrand (right) fouls Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez (left) during their English FA Community Shield match at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 7, 2021. Photo/AFP

The Premier League returns on Friday in front of full crowds for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit and with little sign of the financial turmoil of the past 18 months slowing the arms race for talent in the transfer market.

Newly-promoted Brentford open the 2021/2022 season at home to Arsenal in front of a first full house at the Bees new 17,500 capacity stadium, which opened last year.

“This is the kick-off to a new world where we have never been before,” said Brentford manager Thomas Frank.

Despite the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, the Premier League has told fans to expect spot-checks to prove they have been fully vaccinated or provide evidence of a negative test in the past 48 hours before entering stadiums.

The UK government has not yet implemented a vaccination passport scheme, but could do so in the coming months for events with crowds of over 20,000.

“It is a momentous moment,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC ahead of the expected return of 300,000 fans across the 10 top-flight matches this weekend.

“It does feel like it is a return to some sort of normality. We will always be cautious and put safety first.”

The economic bounce from a return of fans through the gates and agreement for a £4.7 billion ($6.5 billion) three-year domestic television rights deal from 2022 has already been evidenced in the sums spent by Premier League clubs on new players.

As even some of the biggest names across the continent such as Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Inter Milan have had to sell and shed big earners from their wage bills, the English giants have splashed out. -AFP

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