Football fans return to stadiums for first time in six months as 1,000 Carlisle United fans are allowed in to watch their clash against Southend – with eight other grounds set to open their doors this weekend despite looming second lockdown
- Fans at eight EFL clubs are allowed to enter stadiums this Saturday afternoon
- Attendance has been capped at 1,000 with Carlisle vs Southend the first game
- The fans at Brunton Park did not need to wear face coverings in their seats
- Norwich City and Middlesbrough’s Championship matches will also have fans
- Bigger attendances could be allowed at more clubs from October 1
Fans returned to a competitive league match for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday as Carlisle United fans were allowed to attend their League Two match against Southend United.
Earlier this week, the English Football League (EFL) picked nine matches over the course of the weekend to allow 1,000 fans in as part of the UK’s ‘return of fans’ pilot programme, including Norwich City and Middlesbrough in the Championship.
While Luton Town, who play Derby County on Saturday, pulled out of the initiative due to a lack of preparation time, Carlisle fans were able to watch their team live for the first time since the global pandemic halted the 2019-20 campaign in March.
1,000 fans were allowed to attend Carlisle vs Southend United on Saturday afternoon
The development is part of the ‘return to fans’ pilot programme following the COVID-19 crisis
Areas were marked out where fans could sit at Brunton Park while face coverings had to be worn while entering the ground, but not in the stadium seats or in the terraces.
Stewards also monitored where fans were placed as both the seated and terraced areas at Carlisle were open to supporters.
And the Cumbrians were given a treat by their team as two goals in three minutes from Omari Patrick and Joshua Kayode gave Carlisle a strong first-half lead.
The nine EFL clubs were chosen as they were able to provide ways they could implement social distancing at the grounds.
Carlisle hosted supporters for the early kick-off with eight more EFL matches welcoming fans
Areas where marked where supporters could sit at Brunton Park with stewards monitoring fans
Carlisle socially distanced themselves on the turnstiles as they watched their team live
EFL chairman Rick Parry said: ‘It’s encouraging that we are in a position to move forward with the next phase of the pilot programme and give a small number of our clubs the opportunity to welcome back up to a 1,000 fans this week.
‘The health and well-being of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but social distancing can be applied safely.
‘By extending across more EFL clubs we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month.’
The UK Government are currently intending to allow more fans to attend matches across the entire English football pyramid from October 1.
Signs were placed as fans needed to wear turnstiles around the ground but not in their seats
The Cumbrians took on struggling Southend United in the second weekend of League Two
The number of permitted fans could rise to 2,500 as clubs are set to receive a financial boost after months of empty seats and unused turnstiles.
There are currently no plans to run test events in Premier League matches as England’s top-flight enters its second weekend of the 2020-21 season.
West Ham chief Karren Brady slammed the top-flight’s decision to delay the return of fans and claimed that a Premier League stadium is ‘safer than your own living room’.
She added: ‘Frankly, 1,000 spectators in, say, West Ham’s London Stadium — which has 66,000 seats — is so wide of that objective it rivals me in high heels shooting for goal from 25 yards. It is both laughable and irrelevant’
Two first-half goals meant it was a happy return to the stadium for the Cumbrians on Saturday
However, there are fears that this development could be delayed until November after Boris Johnson’s ‘rule of six’ limitation that was implemented this week.
The Prime Minister ruled that social gatherings of more than six people are banned following a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
Mr Johnson is now threatening to ‘intensify’ coronavirus restrictions as he blames the British public for the rise in cases, with stricter measures such as bans on all social contact between households and shutting down hospitality and leisure venues like bars and restaurants being considered.
It is understood that the new ‘circuit break’ shutdown could be announced via television press conference on Tuesday, in a move reminiscent of the Government’s behaviour during the peak of the pandemic.
EFL MATCHES THAT FANS CAN ATTEND ON SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 19
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
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