Safety authorities cleared Blues for Covid-secure games in front of supporters
Town had been given the green light by the safety authorities to welcome fans back to Portman Road, not only for a test event this weekend but also for future matches played in front of significantly more supporters in a ‘Covid-secure’ environment.
A close on 100 page document outlining all the procedures and protocols the Club had in place to meet the safety guidelines was approved by the Safety Advisory Group on Monday, enabling Blues to apply to the EFL to be a venue for a test event in front of 1000 supporters for the weekend game against Rochdale.
Test events were set as pathways for the return of supporters to stadiums from October, albeit in reduced capacities but the Government have now put those plans on hold after an increase in the Covid-19 infection rate.
“We met all the safety requirements asked of us by the SAG to host a test event and the application had gone into the EFL to be considered for Saturday’s game against Rochdale,” Town’s matchday safety officer, Mick Warden, told the Club website.
“If we had been selected by the EFL, that would have meant 1000 fans back at Portman Road for Saturday.
“Providing our test event had gone according to plan - and there is no reason to suggest otherwise - we would have been in a position to accommodate more supporters in align with the Covid-secure protocols.
“Obviously the Government’s announcement has put a hold on the return of supporters. It’s disappointing but the health and safety of all is clearly the main concern.”
The Government has given no indication of when supporters may be allowed back into stadiums and EFL chair, Rick Parry, has expressed his worries for the game.
“Following the successful return of supporters to seven fixtures on Saturday, the EFL is disappointed at yesterday’s decision to suspend plans for the return of fans to matches,” he said.
“Of course we recognise that the UK is facing a significant public health crisis and that sport has to play its part in helping the Government manage the spread of the virus at this difficult time. This is why over many months we have helped the Government devise, refine and pilot stringent stadium protocols designed to keep supporters safe.
“Staging professional football matches is one of the most heavily regulated areas of crowd management and any supporters attending EFL fixtures, in vastly reduced numbers, would have been required to adhere to social distancing and the rule of six.
“Therefore we are deeply frustrated that we will not be able to continue this work and, in doing so, gather the evidence to show that crowds can return safely to football and become an important financial lifeline for our clubs. As a matter of urgency we now need to understand what the Government’s roadmap is for getting supporters back into stadiums as soon as it is deemed safe to do so.
“With extended measures introduced, it is imperative that the financial issues facing our clubs are addressed quickly. EFL clubs lost £50m last season as a result of playing matches behind closed doors or curtailing the season and stand to lose a further £200m in 2020/21 should we be required to play the whole season without supporters in grounds.
“I am encouraged that the Government has recognised the need for urgent financial assistance for sport and discussions will continue with DCMS and the Premier League.
“We remain optimistic that a solution will be found but we should also be very clear that if it is not, then the outlook for many clubs in the period ahead will be very challenging."