Football fans to attend match! Gloucestershire club chosen as UK pilot
It comes to something when headline news is that fans will be at a football match on Saturday, but that is what it has come to in a pandemic which has seen all spectators barred from professional fixtures – until now.
Nailsworth-based Forest Green Rovers has been chosen by the EFL (English Football League) as one of 10 pilot fixtures to allow fans back at the weekend, when the club faces down Bradford City.
Rules laid down so far include strictly season ticket holders only and a limit of 1,000 spectators, with everyone obliged to sport the obligatory face mask. Celebrations will no doubt be mandatory too, but hugging fellow fans not in your bubble (should the game merit it) strictly forbidden for fear of a red card.
“As I told Sky, we’ve done all the planning and preparation, now we want to put it into practice ahead of getting fans back in limited numbers more regularly, we hope - in October. Looking forward to Saturday even more now,” said Dale Vince, Ecotricity Group founder, chairman of Forest Green Rovers and United Nations Climate Change Champion for sport.
The decision to allow fans back into a restricted number of games follows a successful pilot staged at Cambridge United last week, where fans were in the auspicious position of attending at a professional football match for the first time since March.
This weekend will see three matches from the Sky Bet Championship and Sky Bet League Two, with Sky Bet League One set to stage four pilot fixtures.
Rick Parry, EFL chairman, said: “The health and well-being of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge, social distancing can be applied safely.
"By extending across more EFL clubs, we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month."
Oliver Dowden, the nation’s culture secretary, called the games "number-capped, COVID-secure, and socially-distanced pilots", adding that jobs depended on the safe return of fans .
Forest Green Rovers said: “Appropriate measures have been applied at The New Lawn, with both standing terraces and seating arrangements ready to welcome supporters this weekend.
“Supporters will be required to wear a face covering at all times, as part of the guidelines given to the club in order to stage a pilot event.
“Season ticket holders will receive seating arrangement details in the coming days. Please note, your streaming code will still be valid for this game.
“All supporters will be temperature checked on arrival to The New Lawn. If you have developed any COVID-19 symptoms, please do not attend the match.
“There will be no catering outlets or bars open on Saturday – but you will be allowed to bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks into the stadium.”
Role on 3pm Saturday then.