Test event planned but matchday will be very different. Here's how...
In the next in a series of communications from Town to supporters, the Club website looks at what’s needed for fans to return to Portman Road and what matchday will look like when they do…
Okay, so any news on when supporters will be allowed back in stadiums? There are test events taking place, aren’t there?
There are and the Club are looking to hold a test event in front of a few thousand fans at the end of this month, or the start of October. It’s likely all EFL clubs will have to put on one test event which will be checked by the safety authorities, namely the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) and the Safety Advisory Group (SAG). If every protocol is met and the stadium gets the green light, then it’s down to the Government to say ‘game on’. All the noise from the Government at the moment is that they would like to see fans back in stadiums from next month providing every box is ticked.
How many fans will be able to attend games at Portman Road then?
There is no definite figure at the moment. Like every club, we have to meet criteria set out by the safety bodies and that will mean significantly reduced attendances to start with - and probably for some time.
How significantly reduced?
Too early to say at the moment but the Club has invested in stadium technology with a third party and is also working with ticketing partner SeatGeek to get as many supporters back into the stadium as possible. There are many restrictions to adhere to. Supporters have to be seated with social distancing in place. That doesn’t just mean seats left empty between fans in the same row, it includes in most areas - the seats left empty in the row behind as well. Seats that are adjacent to stairwells are not permitted to be used; the size of concourses; the reduced number of toilet facilities. It also contributes to what’s called the ‘Covid capacity’. It’s a logistical headache not faced by Ipswich Town or any other club before.
Will social bubbles come into it?
Very much so. It will increase the number of fans in the stadium if people are able to attend in groups of three or more (up to six), safely and in no more than two households. The larger the average bubble size, the more fans in the stadium in general. The Club will need the supporters’ help with social bubbles and there will be more on this particular area on the Club website on Friday. Look out for it, it’s very important to Town’s planning for the return of fans.
Will all season ticket holders be able to attend?
We can’t answer that yet. We have close on 9000 season ticket holders. The capacity for Portman Road is reported to be over 30,000 but in truth, it’s under that. Restricted view seats, which are included in the capacity figure, can’t be introduced into the Covid ‘mathematics’ so it’s not a case of trying to fit 9000 season ticket holders socially distanced into a 30,000 capacity stadium. It’s nowhere near that equation.
If the ‘Covid capacity’ is less than 9000, how will the Club determine which season ticket holders will be at the first game fans can return?
The Club is working through a number of scenarios. A ballot system is the most likely but the message from Portman Road is clear ‘everything possible will be done to get as many supporters into the stadium as we can’.
Will away fans be allowed into the stadium?
Town will be focusing on getting in all home supporters so no, away fans will not be at the stadium but it’s a choice for individual clubs. You may find that at some of the bigger capacity away grounds in League One where home support is catered for, the travelling Blue Army may get an allocation of tickets.
So when fans are back, what’s the guidelines for supporters travelling to the stadium?
Supporters are advised to refrain from using public transport as much as possible and should not travel in a car with anyone outside their social bubble.
What will be the protocol having arrived at Portman Road?
You are likely to be allocated an arrival time to enter the stadium. It won’t be a case of turning up five minutes before kick-off. Your temperature will be taken before entry is granted into the stadium. If your temperature is above the threshold of 37.6 degrees you will not be permitted entry and will be asked to return home. You may be searched on entry to the ground by stewards. One way systems will be in operation in some stands and you’ll need to follow the signage and directions from stewards to your seat
Will I be sitting in my designated season ticket seat?
No is the short answer - or very unlikely. Ticket details will follow in due course but the stadium will operate - and has to operate - in a completely different way when fans start to come back. Social distancing will reign and that means supporters sitting in a different seat to their season ticket; maybe a different block; maybe a different stand altogether.
Will face masks be mandatory?
You will be asked to wear a mask when you are moving to and from your seat and when you are passing through inside areas such as the concourse but you won’t be required to wear a mask when in your seat.
What hygiene measures will the Club have in place?
There will be sanitiser dispensers provided. The stadium has signage advertising all the good hygiene guidelines - avoid touching your face whenever possible; avoid contact with handrails when possible; always cover your mouth if needing to cough or sneeze - and of course stressing the need for social distancing. It’s the sort of stuff that has become the norm. Supporters will also be asked to avoid face to face contact when moving past other spectators to and from their seat and also to take care when shouting, singing or celebrating.
Will I be able to buy a pie and a pint?
There will not be any catering facilities within the stadium concourses. So no pie and pint but this will be continually reviewed in line with legislation.
Are you allowed to bring your own food and drink into the stadium?
Yes but they need to be in a clear plastic bag. Plastic 500ml bottles will only be allowed. No glass or cans and no alcohol can be brought into the ground. You’ll need to be aware that there will be a restriction on access to the toilet facilities as well. It depends on the facilities but it could be ‘one at a time’; ‘one way in - one way out’. Stewards will be stationed at all toilets to help with queuing etc.
What about leaving the stadium at the final whistle?
You will be required to remain in your seat at the end and take guidance from stewards as exiting will be managed in a row by row system. If you want to leave the stadium early you will need to do so by 85 minutes at the latest.
Will the Club shop be open on matchdays?
Yes. There will be limited capacity in-store and strict social distancing with a managed queue will be in place. The Club are also looking at potential pop-ups around the stadium perimeter but this is not confirmed as yet.
Will there be a chance to get autographs and selfies?
Afraid not. EFL guidance says no selfies or autographs. This is to avoid close contact.
Are hospitality packages available?
Yes, options are being finalised and anyone interested in securing a hospitality package which will be subject to availability, can email email@example.com in the first instance to register interest. Anyone who had a seasonal hospitality package last season will be accommodated first.
What happens if I test positive for Covid shortly after going to Portman Road?
First of all you should not be at a game if you display any Covid-19 symptoms or are required to self-isolate. You are also advised not to enter the stadium if you are considered clinically, an extremely vulnerable person. If you test positive for Covid a few days after a match, you should contact the Club immediately. You will be required to provide your personal details - and those of your support bubble - to the Club for ‘Track and Trace’ purposes. You will also need to read and agree with terms and conditions of sale, read and agree to general Covid guidance and read and agree to a Code of Conduct before confirming your tickets for matches.