For the first time in 266 days supporters of some clubs will be allowed to enter stadiums for EFL games on Wednesday evening.
With England’s second national lockdown ending, the Government announced last week that teams based in Tier 1 will be allowed a maximum of 4,000 supporters through the door, with those in Tier 2 permitted 2,000.
Six sides will therefore play in front of a reduced home crowd tonight for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in a momentous occasion for English football.
Carlisle’s game against Salford City will be the first, with the League Two fixture kicking off at 7pm at Brunton Park, although the match is capped at a 1,000 capacity as Carlisle have not held a previous pilot event.
At 7.45pm in the Championship Luton versus Norwich will also have 1,000 supporters present.
And at the same time in League One Wycombe v Stoke, Charlton v MK Dons and Shrewsbury v Accrington will take place in front of 2,000 fans, with Cambridge United v Mansfield the other fixture with a crowd in League Two.
Despite the good news, the return to grounds will be a very different experience to how supporters will remember it.
The Football League has issued a code of conduct for those lucky enough to attend games in the coming weeks.
The 18-point code includes a series of strict rules, such as:
Social distancing must be maintained at all times. Fans must follow all signage and floor markings to help maintain social distancing, and note that some stadium facilities, including toilets and refreshment kiosks, may be closed.
- If celebrating a goal, fans are asked to “maintain safe distances to other supporters not in your social bubble, and be respectful and mindful to those around you whose individual circumstances may differ from your own.”
- Fans should not touch the match ball if it is kicked into the stands.
They should not approach any players or coaches for autographs, photographs or any other reason.
Clubs can make their own decision as to whether fans must wear a face covering at all times or if they can remove it once seated.
Thursday will see Arsenal become the first Premier League side to play in front of fans again when 2,000 will be allowed in to watch their Europa League game against Rapid Vienna.
There were hopes that supporters would have been allowed in earlier than this after Brighton successfully hosted a pre-season friendly against Chelsea in front of 2,500 people.
But as coronavirus rates significantly increased in the country during a second spike these plans had to be put back.
There are hopes that the number allowed in will gradually be able to increase until stadiums reach full capacity, and the breakthrough in a vaccine for the virus can only be positive news.
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