Empty seats, staggered entry and moving season ticket holders - Town ask for help to ready Portman Road for return of fans

Ipswich Town fans can return to Portman Road in small numbers from October. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Ipswich Town fans can return to Portman Road in small numbers from October. Picture: RACHEL EDGE - Credit: Rachel Edge

Ipswich Town are asking supporters for their help as they continue to work towards bringing fans back to Portman Road.

Under current government legislation, fans will be allowed to return to sports stadiums from October, by which point Ipswich’s 2019/20 season will be underway.

The Blues have received a hefty dossier from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority and are working to ensure their home ground is ‘Covid secure’ for the return of reduced capacities.

In order to help plan for the return of supporters, the club have issued a survey asking season ticket holders whether they plan to return, who they would attend with and how they would travel to the stadium.

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Just under 9,000 season ticket holders have renewed for next season but, at this stage, it remains unclear just how many supporters will be allowed inside Portman Road for games. At this stage it seems almost certain only season ticket holders will be permitted to attend, with the club hopeful of hosting as many as possible.

A significant number, though, will not be able to sit in their regular season ticket seats and will need to be accommodated elsewhere in the stadium given no seats on stairwells will be in use and every other row left vacant.

The club are also asking where in the stadium supporters would wish to sit, were they not able to sit in their regular seats.

Strict social distancing measures will be in place, including a one way system to restrict face to face contact; avoidance of fans gathering in concourses; the possibility of staggered times of arrival to reduce queuing; a streamlined service of food and drink outlets and the use of hand-sanitiser stations on entry.

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“We have not far short of 9,000 season ticket holders and it’s clear that with social distancing still at the forefront of battling the threat of Covid-19, many season ticket holders will not be able to sit in their chosen seat when supporters do return,” club secretary, Stuart Hayton, said.

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“With no seats being used next to stairwells and every other row being left empty for instance, we are going have to reconfigure the stadium in many respects. That’s just one of the many challenges the club faces in getting Portman Road ready to meet the strict protocols that have to be in place.

“While the health and safety of all is clearly our number one objective, we obviously want to get as many supporters into the stadium as possible so any information we can get from season tickets holders about who they sit with at the stadium; are they family members; are they in their social bubble; where would they prefer to sit if not in their allocated seat will help us going forward as well as mode of transport to games.

“We are sending a survey to season ticket holders by email to ask for that feedback and will continue to communicate with supporters as we develop plans for the safe return of fans to Portman Road.”

The survey can be found here.