Sports

Crowd Pilots: EFL confirm 10 upcoming games will host fans


Cambridge United fans
A crowd of 862 saw Cambridge beat Fulham U21s in the EFL Trophy on 8 September – the first elite competitive football match to host fans since lockdown

Up to 1,000 fans will be allowed to attend 10 different English Football League games this weekend as part of the government’s crowd pilots.

The news comes as discussions between the EFL and the government about a return for more supporters from 1 October continue.

No fans have attended an EFL fixture since March because of the coronavirus.

Three Championship games, four League One matches and three in League Two have been chosen for this weekend.

The following games, all taking place on Saturday, have been chosen (all kick-off times 15:00 BST unless stated):

Championship

  • Luton Town v Derby County
  • Middlesbrough v AFC Bournemouth
  • Norwich City v Preston North End

League One

  • Blackpool v Swindon Town
  • Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers
  • Hull City v Crewe Alexandra
  • Shrewsbury Town v Northampton Town

League Two

  • Carlisle United v Southend United (13:00 BST)
  • Forest Green Rovers v Bradford City
  • Morecambe v Cambridge United

“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,” said EFL chair Rick Parry.

“The health and wellbeing of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge [in a crowd pilot at 8 September’s EFL Trophy game], social distancing can be applied safely.

“The requirement to welcome spectators back through turnstiles has not diminished in any way, the financial challenges facing EFL clubs have been explained on numerous occasions, they are substantial and a problem that requires immediate solutions.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden added: “I know that many fans are eager to return to football and that jobs depend on this too, so fans will welcome [this] news.

“This will help us build the evidence base to see how we can return fans safely in greater numbers as soon as it is safe to do so.”

It is understood that only a limited number of pilot events were available for home clubs to apply for and any teams based in communities which are currently under local lockdown restrictions were excluded from applying.

Last week, the government restricted pilot events to 1,000 spectators after a rise in coronavirus cases, and said plans for grounds to be up to a third full from 1 October would be reviewed.

The Premier League has already written to the government over pilot plans and says around £100m per month will be lost by clubs across the leagues while matches continue behind closed doors.

It is one of a number of sports bodies to have voiced concerns at the financial impact of an extended period with empty venues.

Last Saturday’s Women’s Super League match between West Ham United and Arsenal saw 734 attend at Chigwell Construction Stadium in the first fans pilot at an English professional league game since the outbreak.



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