‘We need to understand what the Government’s roadmap is for getting supporters back’ - EFL chief ‘deeply frustrated’ by new delay
PUBLISHED: 14:05 23 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:05 23 September 2020
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EFL boss Rick Parry says he is disappointed that plans to get fans back to football are being paused due to a surge in coronavirus cases - and warned of a ‘very challenging’ period ahead for clubs.
The Government announced yesterday that plans to allow some fans to return to football and other sports from October 1 would be paused amid new restrictions aimed at tackling the second wave of the virus in the UK.
It comes as last weekend saw several pilot events at games across the country, with up to 1,000 fans returning.
Indeed, Ipswich Town were hoping to run their test event with the visit of Rochdale to Portman Road this weekend, but that has now been shelved.
With Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that the new restrictions will likely be in place for six months, clubs are now facing the very real possibility of not having fans at games till March, if at all this season.
And in a statement released bythe EFL, Parry stressed that the Government must explain how and when fans may be able to start returning.
It read: “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.
“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. “Therefore, 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.”
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