The Government have been warned that the delay in allowing fans back into stadiums is a ‘nightmare’ which risks jeopardising the entire English football pyramid because of the impending financial catastrophe.
Test events, now limited to 1,000 fans due to new Government restrictions, took place at seven EFL games on Saturday including Championship clubs Norwich and Middlesbrough.
But West Ham’s Karren Brady says they could host 20,000 at the London Stadium safely and experts warn that without a change in Government thinking a sporting financial meltdown is imminent.
The Government have been warned that supporters need to return to stadiums soon
Tuesday’s cabinet meeting is seen as crucial in determining whether the Government will go ahead with the planned October 1 date for readmission of some fans, though it looks increasingly likely the best the Premier League can hope for is test events of about 2,500 fans.
But EFL executives are warning they cannot live on handouts and tax deferrals for ever.
Lee Hoos, chief executive at Championship club QPR, says that it cost clubs tens of thousands to put on games at present, which is unsustainable.
QPR chief executive Lee Hoos says clubs are having to pay tens of thousands to stage games
Hoos said: ‘League One and Two are already talking about how long clubs can continue to put on games and lose money. The most amazing thing is how long it took for Wigan to go into administration.
‘If clubs get to a point where they have nothing coming through the gates and decide to terminate the season, that could be the end of the English football pyramid as we know it.
‘We need to have some revenue coming in. We’re not an industry that receives a Government bailout. We need the opportunity to stand on our own two feet.
‘Safety has to be the No1 priority. But there’s been a considerable amount of work with Sports Ground Safety Authority and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in terms of how we can do this safely. We have plans submitted with the local council to say this is how we could get people in. We’re just waiting for the OK.’
Experts warn that without a change in Government thinking a sporting financial meltdown is imminent
Test events of 1,000 fans took place at Norwich, Middlesbrough, Charlton, Blackpool, Shrewsbury, Forest Green Rovers and Carlisle on Saturday but the Premier League suspended their test events, saying 1,000 fans weren’t a large enough cohort to provide meaningful data.
Brady, who wrote in her newspaper column that Premier League clubs were collectively losing £80million a month in gate receipts, said: ‘It is becoming increasingly difficult to see what the delay in bringing back spectators to football is all about — except optics,’ she wrote.
West Ham executive vice-chairman Karren Brady is eager for supporters to be let back in
‘A Premier League football stadium is the safest place you can be. Safer than your own living room. Our highly supervised environment means supporters are safer in there than if they were mixing informally in their own homes.’
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden is arguing the cause of the sports industry in cabinet but with further national restrictions now looking imminent to add to the rule of six, it remains to be seen whether a more nuanced message, that stadiums are safe, and the scale of the imminent financial disaster will cut through to the Prime Minister.
Dortmund show how it’s done with 10,000 crowd
By Lukas Rott
You could hear the excitement in Norbert Dickel’s voice. The Borussia Dortmund legend is now the announcer at Signal Iduna Park.
Giovanni Reyna had just opened the scoring in front of the 9,300 supporters. Dickel took the mike and, before declaring the scorer’s name, said: ‘I have waited so long to do this.’
We all have. Two Dortmund fans outside the stadium held a sign before the game which read: ‘Covid-19 is dying. BVB will never die’. You could see how much the supporters loved to be back.
10,000 fans were in attendance for Borussia Dortmund’s game v Borussia Monchengladbach
It was a strange atmosphere. There were 2,000 fans in the yellow wall instead of the usual 25,000. But they did their best to bring as much atmosphere as they could. They sang their songs as loud as they could. Huge cheers greeted the teams coming out. More when the Dortmund names were announced. Boos met the Gladbach players.
It was still so different. Fans on one side of the stadium could not hear the ones on the other so they sang their own songs. And with no away fans they could sing about Monchengladbach without fear of any reply.
By the end, with Dortmund three up, the Mexican wave had begun, even with a few gaps.
The celebrations felt more emotional. The hugs lasted longer. Having the fans back surely played a part in that. Goals were not celebrated quite so intensely when the stands were empty.
With fans at the ground, the celebrations for Dortmund’s goals felt much more emotional
Fans were excited but they respected the situation. They maintained their distance, even when goals went in. They stood in their own groups, sharing a look with the next nearest set of supporters but nothing more. After the final whistle, they were told to remain in their seats.
Stewards made sure all the conditions were met. They checked people were sanitising their hands and approached the few people who did not stay disciplined. Masks had to be worn when moving around the stadium and when queuing, even outside the ground. Fans had timetables for getting into the ground, they brought their IDs. Toilets used a one-way system.
People realise that the Covid situation changes daily. Cases are going up so everyone is just enjoying the moment. Everyone felt happy to be back.
Everyone felt safe.