City halt ticket plans for return of crowds after latest government review
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Hopes of Norwich City fans returning to Carrow Road soon have suffered a setback, as the club confirmed on Thursday morning they will put on hold plans to press ahead with ticketing arrangements for a limited return of fans in October in light of fresh government advice.
Pilot events have been held in various sports in the past month and in football hopes were raised when around 2,500 fans were allowed to attend a pre-season friendly at Brighton’s stadium, with the expected health and safety restrictions in place.
However, the government have announced new legal restrictions on social gatherings of people in groups any bigger than six - to combat a worrying new rise in Covid-19 figures.
City issued a brief statement on their official site on Thursday which read: ‘Following a government announcement that plans for spectators at sporting events are to be reviewed, the previously communicated ticketing procedure that was due to commence on Monday September 14 will now be put on hold.
‘The club will continue to communicate with supporters via the official club website, social media channels and directly via email, once it has received further details and guidance from the EFL and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.
‘Supporters’ patience and understanding on this matter is appreciated.’
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City’s response comes a day after prime minister Boris Johnson announced a tightening of measures to try and deal with a rise in infection rates.
“We must revise plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month and review our intention to return audiences to stadiums from 1 October,” he said at Downing Stree briefing.
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“But that doesn’t mean we are going to scrap the programme entirely.
“We are just going to have to review it and abridge it.”
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden followed on from the press conference swiftly, with limited further details in a series of posts on Twitter.
The secretary of state for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) posted: “Further to the PM’s announcement we are reviewing the list of proposed sports pilots ahead of October 1, in light of the increased number of cases. Details of changes will be announced shortly.
“We are keeping under review further easements proposed from October 1 but no changes have been announced today - and we continue to plan for the best.
“As I said on Sunday and the PM confirmed today, work continues round the clock on the moonshot project with the ambition of having audiences back much closer to normal by Christmas.”
That ‘moonshot’ project is the government’s ambition to introduce wide-scale and rapid testing across the country, to allow those who are shown to not be carrying coronavirus to carry on with normal life, such as attending events with big crowds.
At the start of the week Norwich City announced provisional plans for a maximum of 8,000 spectators to attend their approaching home games.
This was very much provisional, with confirmation that the game against Preston at Carrow Road on September 19 had not yet been approved as a pilot event.
However, the initial ticketing protocols were rolled out so that season ticket holders and members would be able to understand how City would decide who would get tickets, with the intention of a season ticket holder being able to attend at least one home game a month.
The process of applying for games was due to begin on Monday, September 14, for the Preston game as well as October games against Derby, Birmingham and Wycombe - but it’s unclear if this will be able to go ahead.
Those details also confirmed that season ticket holders would be entitled to rebates to games they cannot or do not want to attend, as well as details of free access to online streams of all home games and midweek away games for fans - with supporters set to receive correspondence with full and specific details.
The impact further down the football pyramid, for the area’s top non-league sides such as King’s Lynn Town, Lowestoft Town and Dereham Town, remains even more in limbo due to the financial costs of clubs hosting games at those levels without any spectators.
Locally, the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League is expecting its clubs to still be able to allow in a maximum of 150 spectators, posting on Twitter: “The FA Leagues Committee have confirmed that they have received clarification from DCMS that spectators can continue to attend step three (of non-league) and below matches at current levels. This includes the Thurlow Nunn League.”