Football has capacity to allow fans back in – Brighton boss Graham Potter

Brighton boss Graham Potter believes football has the capacity to safely welcome back supporters and is saddened to be playing bitter rivals Crystal Palace behind closed doors.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters this week pointed to the example of a well-attended London Palladium event in making a case for fans being allowed into stadia.

Potter, who takes Albion to Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon, shares a similar view.

He relishes the “wonderful atmosphere” of derby clashes against the Eagles and feels an imminent return of crowds should be a realistic prospect.

“I feel a bit of a fraud speaking without the full info but my gut instinct says I agree with him,” Potter said of Masters’ comments.

“We’re allowed to go into pubs, we’re allowed to go indoors, we’re allowed to be at events, and I think football has the capacity to socially distance, to organise themselves, to allow supporters back in.

“I can see where he’s coming from. I tend to agree.

“This derby is a great one for the supporters. It generates a wonderful atmosphere. I thought the game last year at Selhurst Park was really good, it was a really good atmosphere – it was hostile but not too hostile, it was on the right level.

“I think the longer it (no fans) goes on, it’s very upsetting to see. The quicker that we can get supporters back, the better.”

Photographs taken inside the London Palladium, where former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was holding an event, showed audiences wearing masks and separated by empty seats.

The continued absence of football fans is due to be debated by MPs on November 9 after a petition to allow their return received more than 196,000 signatures.

Potter is sweating on the fitness of Aaron Connolly ahead of the trip to south-east London.

Seagulls striker Connolly, who has started each of the club’s last three top-flight fixtures, picked up a couple of problems during the Republic of Ireland’s 1-0 defeat to Finland on Wednesday evening.

“Aaron Connolly had a heavy knock in the first half last night, had a nasty fall, so he’s just checking out his wrist and a bit of a jarred neck,” said Potter.

“We are just seeing how he recovers.”