FOOTBALL could return to the Stadium of Light this month, according to city officials.

It has been months since a ball was kicked at the ground in a formal fixture, following the decision to halt matches due to the coronavirus outbreak.

But with competitive games for League One sides due to resume in September with the start of the 2020/21 season, the prospect has been raised of a warm-up tie in the coming weeks to prepare squads for action and test social distancing and safety measures.

Plans to reopen the ground were heard on Monday, by Sunderland City Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee, which met to renew the club’s safety certificate.

A council officer told the panel: “It is my understanding that a friendly match may take place in late August and a cup match may be played early September

“It’s anticipated the reintroduction of spectators will occur from October, 2020, but this is subject to the success of pilot schemes proposed under government plans to reintroduce live music and sporting activities.”

The committee agreed to renew the ground’s safety certificate for the 2020/21 season, capping attendances at 48,339 for non-segregated matches and 48,095 segregated ties, the same as last year.

But the stadium is unlikely to be filled to that capacity due to social distancing guidelines.

The English Football League has confirmed the League One season will kick-off on the weekend of September 12 and is expected to finish by May 9.

Fixture dates for any cup competitions are yet to be confirmed.

It is understood friendlies and other matches outside league or other competitions can be held at the discretion of the clubs involved, so long as they comply with government rules.

Initially, all games will be held behind closed doors, with only limited numbers allowed into grounds connected with administration, security, media coverage and playing the game itself.

And even once footballing authorities are prepared to readmit fans, further caps are expected to be agreed on the numbers which can be allowed in safely.

Sunderland AFC has been contacted for comment.