Ipswich Town fans could be back inside Portman Road before end of month if test event given green light
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Ipswich Town fans could be back inside Portman Road before the end of the month if a test event is given the green light.
A phased return of spectators to elite sporting events is underway following the ban on mass gatherings which was introduced in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Brighton’s friendly with Chelsea was used as English football’s first test event on Saturday – 2,500 supporters allowed inside the 30,000-capacity Amex Stadium.
Ipswich are looking at holding their own test event soon – the League One visit of Rochdale on Saturday, September 26 or the EFL Trophy match against Gillingham on Tuesday, October 6 the two games being targeted – to act as a precursor to even more fans being allowed through the gates over the following weeks.
With the design of every ground unique in terms of how close seats are in different sections, each venue will have its own maximum Covid capacity. Ipswich have taken on the services of a company that expertise in stadium layouts to crunch the figures, working out how they can get as many supporters – each in their different-sized family and friends bubbles – into the ground safely.
It’s likely that figure will be somewhere between 20-30% of Portman Road’s 30,311 capacity – that’s around 6,000 to 9,000. And the initial test event is likely to be at least half that figure.
Ipswich have sold around 9,000 season tickets for the 2020/21 campaign, so it’s highly unlikely that they will be able to accommodate all of them under Covid restrictions.
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Using new online ticket partner SeatGeek, the Blues will be able to ask season ticket holders which games they can and cannot attend. A ballot system will then be used to determine who is permitted entry.
Attending games will be a different experience for supporters. There will potentially be staggered entry and exit times, temperature checks, the need to masks entering or moving around the stadium and restrictions on catering.
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said last weekend marked ‘an important milestone’ in the recovery of sport.
He added: “I am doing everything I can to get fans back in the stands, following the teams and enjoying the sports they love. Sport’s economic health depends on their return to stadiums, too.
“I commend the clubs, players, stewards, emergency services and everyone else for their hard work to get us this far. We have blown the starting whistle on fans returning safely, but our work is not done until every fan is back where they belong.”
Cambridge United’s home matches with Fulham Under-21s in the EFL Trophy on September 8 and Carlisle in League Two on September 12 are next in the government’s pilot scheme. The club’s Abbey Stadium will allow 1,000 fans for the EFL tie and 2,500 for the league game. Cambridge has been chosen for both fixtures to allow ‘quick learnings’.
Charlton’s League One match at home to Doncaster on September 19 has also been targeted as a test event, with it reported that they are aiming to get between 6,000-8,500 supporters inside The Valley (27,111 capacity) come October.
Milton Keynes Dons executive director Andy Cullen has said that they are working towards admitting around 7,000 fans into the 30,000 capacity Stadium MK.
An EFL spokesperson said: “The EFL continues to work closely with DCMS and the SGSA regarding proposals for pilot events to take place, with all EFL Clubs having aspirations to allow the return of fans into stadiums as soon as it is safe to do so.”