EFL take first steps in allowing fans to return to stadiums

Cambridge signed Norwich City legend Wes Hoolahan for the new campaign. The Us will be the first EFL

Cambridge signed Norwich City legend Wes Hoolahan for the new campaign. The Us will be the first EFL club allowed to welcome supporters back inside a stadium next week Picture: Cambridge United FC - Credit: Cambridge United FC

Wes Hoolahan’s Cambridge United will be the first Football League club to allow supporters back inside grounds next week at two special test events.

The EFL confirmed on Thursday afternoon the Abbey Stadium has been selected for the next stage in football’s bid to re-admit supporters, following last season’s shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

United’s EFL Trophy fixture against Fulham on September 8 and the League Two kick-off against Carlisle United on September 12 will allow a small proportion of fans to attend. A 1,000 capacity limit will be allowed at the EFL tie with 2,500 permitted for the league fixture.

The Us have been chosen to host the two test events, having previously been part of a joint project by the EFL and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) that looked at the safe application of social distancing at football grounds. Appropriate measures will be in place at the Abbey Stadium, with both terraces and seating arrangements available.

As a result of two fixtures taking place at the same venue in a short period of time the results of the pilot will form part of the on-going work between government, public health bodies and the football authorities in England to try and safely get supporters back into stadiums for the upcoming season.

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Norwich City are likely to start their season behind closed doors but chief operating officer Ben Kensell outlined last month that club bosses were aiming to welcome up to 6,000 fans back to Carrow Road for test events, possibly in September.

“We’re working and lobbying hard with governing bodies and government officials to ensure we’re in the best place to make the decision,” he said. “Locally, we’re working with our safety advisory groups about what capacity we can bring back and we believe that could be up to 6,000 initially.

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“If we are allowed to put test events on in September, then we’ll be communicating with supporters about how they can come into the stadium in a safe environment if they want to.”

The Canaries are understood to still be waiting for firm guidance from the government and the football authorities ahead of the planned return of crowds to sporting events in October.

The latest news comes after Brighton hosted Chelsea last weekend in a friendly in front of 2,500 on the south-coast.

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