“It would give fans that little bit of normality they are craving. It would give hope to the pensioner who lives for going to watch his club on a Saturday, but has been stuck at home for months on end.”
Anyone who saw spectators packed into theatres last week while they’ve been forced to watch Jeff and the boys keep them up to date on the days scores on Sky Sports, could be forgiven for being absolutely livid.
We’re now well into the season, fans are locked out of grounds down to a certain level, and things, as we keep hearing, are only going to get worse.
Cases are going up so fans can’t go into grounds, but they can go into theatres?! Why? What is it that makes a theatre safer than an 8,000 seater League Two ground with 1,000 fans in it.
Sports Minister Oliver Dowden gave a flimsy answer this week, stating that having all football fans going into grounds across the country would post a bigger risk.
A typical lazy and ill thought out answer, something our politicians seem to be getting good at through this pandemic.
I think anyone in football and sport can see it is time to get fans back in stadiums and it is time to get them back in safely.
I sat in Prenton Park two weeks ago, a big stadium for Tranmere Rovers’ level. It has a capacity of around 16,000 seats. Tell me why there can’t be at least 3,000 to 4,000 in that ground.
If you asked a politician now they wouldn’t be able to give you a valid reason.
After a whole five minutes of thinking of how clubs and the government could make this work, I came up with this.
All we have heard this week is about the three tiered system. We’ve got one for regions, why can’t be have one for clubs.
A tiered system based on your capacity and how many fans you can safely get in. It is calculated on what your capacity of seats is, how many stewards you can realistically employ, and how many fans you can get in safely distanced.
To me that makes sense, and that took five minutes to devise while drinking a cup of tea.
To bring other things into the equation, it could even be based on what ‘tier’ your region is in when it comes to Covid.
Too many tiers makes it a bit confusing I know, but it has to be simpler than the new Covid rules Boris Johnson keeps launching out his Downing Street randomiser on a daily basis.
For me that works. The Sporting Minister, the FA, the governing bodies should have all been working on this over recent weeks.
Maybe they have, but we just haven’t heard about it.
There is a still a threat of Covid out there, there is no denying that. But there has to be a balance. If the Government came up with a strategy such as this, it would have saved them having to fork out a £10 million bailout package for the National League.
It would save them having to step in again in a few months time.
It isn’t just the financial reason. It would give fans that little bit of normality they are craving. It would give hope to the pensioner who lives for going to watch his club on a Saturday, but has been stuck at home for months on end.
No one in football is asking for jam packed grounds, that would be stupid to do in these times.
Football and sport is asking for just a little. Not the world on a plate.
As part of a larger feature I spoke to experienced broadcaster and Wolverhampton Wanderers fan Jacqui Oatley this week, one person in the game who is scratching her head over the lack of clarity surrounding the issue.
She believes if the fans aren’t let back in in some capacity there is either going to be a catastrophe with football, or the fans themselves, as taxpayers, will end up footing the bill to save the game.
“The main reason I am being vocal is because I can’t understand why they are letting 3,000 people in the Royal Albert Hall, but not 1,000 in the open air,” explained Oatley.
“I go to matches every week and I am fortunate, and I have seen at Northampton recently how well drilled their stewards are with the rules.
“But you’ve got 25 odd fans up on the hill there and it just a bit odd, and I am yet to see a Government minister give a valid reason as to why fans aren’t allowed in.
“They can say they don’t want fans mingling on the way to the game, but you do that on the way to the theatre, and getting on and off the tube.
“There is so much at stake, and I think the Government should tell local authorities to sort it and put faith in them to make it happen.
“If the Government has to put its hand in its pockets, it will be our money, tax payers money at the end of the day and it will be us and our children who will have to pay it back.
“It is like asking your parents to give you a £20,000 deposit for a house. That’s fine, but that’s £20,000 off your inheritance!
“Every club should be given a pilot to see if they can be trusted.
“We can’t be reliant on Government funding, but they’ll be calling for it because there will be a catastrophic situation if money isn’t coming through the gate.”
Despite cases going up, this cannot simply be dismissed out of hand.
We all know it can be done safely. I’m sure most people would rather go to an open air ground than do their weekly shop in a packed supermarket.
People will argue the Government has been shedding its credibility throughout this pandemic with some of its decision making.
Letting fans back into sports stadiums, even in a limited capacity, might go some way to stemming that.