Football supporters will be allowed back in select EFL grounds this weekend as part of the “return of fans” pilot programme it has been confirmed.
Since the UK went into lockdown in March, clubs up and down the football pyramid have had to play their games behind closed doors to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
However, moves to safely bring fans back to the stands and terraces have been accelerating in recent weeks with Brighton’s August friendly against Chelsea watched by 2,500 spectators at the Amex.
This weekend, up to 1,000 supporters will be allowed to attend eight fixtures in the EFL including two games in the Championship, four in League One and a further two in League Two.
Last week, the government announced that due to a rise in coronavirus crisis across the country, attendance at sports events would be limited to 1,000 spectators until further notice. The EFL had planned to have stadiums a third full by October 1 but that now seems unlikely.
Two clubs relegated from the Premier League last season will be in action in this weekend’s test events with Norwich City hosting Preston at Carrow Road and Bournemouth travelling to the Riverside to face Middlesbrough.
Luton Town had been pencilled in to host fans for their game against Derby County but pulled out due to a lack of preparation time ahead of Saturday’s 3pm kick-off, as did Morecambe Town for the same reason.
Clubs across the three divisions had been invited by the EFL to submit their requests to host matches by Tuesday.
EFL fixtures hosting supporters this weekend:
Norwich City vs Preston North End
Middlesbrough vs AFC Bournemouth
Charlton Athletic vs Doncaster Rovers
Blackpool vs Swindon Town
Shrewsbury Town vs Northampton Town
Hull City vs Crewe Alexandra
Forest Green Rovers vs Bradford City
Carlisle United vs Southend United
In a letter to the 92 clubs, the EFL’s head of policy John Nagle said: “We cannot guarantee at this stage that all clubs that would like to stage a pilot will be given permission to do so, as only a limited number will be approved.
“We are still in discussions with regard to pilot matches on other dates.”
Nagle also warned that football faces “an impending financial crisis as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic” if more supporters are not allowed back into stadiums soon with the vast majority of EFL clubs heavily reliant on income generated on matchdays.
How to apply for tickets
There have been a variety of methods used to determine which fans can attend this weekend’s matches from the chosen clubs.
Norwich City season ticket holders were able to apply for tickets from 3pm today until 5pm on Thursday with a random ballot process determining where the tickets end up.
Middlesbrough have also opened tickets out to season ticket holders from 8pm this evening but they will be allocated on a first come first serve basis. League One Shrewsbury Town and League Two Carlisle United are operating a similar policy.
Charlton Athletic have invited season ticket holders to apply for tickets but have staggered the times to apply in order of the supporters who have amassed the most loyalty points.
Meanwhile, League One side Hull City announced that attendance will be “strictly by invite only” in a message on their website.
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