EFL confirm City can host 1,000 fans for Preston clash

The last Carrow Road game with spectators was a 1-0 win over Leicester in February, with Max Aarons

The last Carrow Road game with spectators was a 1-0 win over Leicester in February, with Max Aarons (pictured) setting up Jamal Lewis for the winner Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The Football League have confirmed that Norwich City are one of 10 clubs which have been given permission to host 1,000 fans, ahead of this weekend’s opening Carrow Road game of the campaign against Preston.

An EFL statement says: “Ten EFL clubs will be permitted to admit spectators into Sky Bet League matches this weekend as part of the ongoing ‘return of fans’ pilot programme.

“As per the current guidance, crowds will be capped at a capacity of 1,000 as discussions continue with the government about return for supporters in greater numbers post October 1, 2020.

“The move to extend the programme follows a successful pilot staged at Cambridge United (for an EFL Trophy game against Fulham U21s) last week when fans were in attendance at a professional football match for the first time since March.”

The Canaries are yet to confirm the news or details of how tickets will be allocated - but had recently released plans of how they intended to deal with the arrangements, only to have to place those plans on pause.

The other Championship games with an allowance of 1,000 fans will see Luton Town host Derby County and Middlesbrough entertain Bournemouth.

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City’s last home match with fans was on February 28, when Leicester were beaten 1-0 by a Jamal Lewis goal.

Five league games subsequently had to be played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic as Daniel Farke’s team slid to Premier League relegation - as well as an FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Manchester United.

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EFL chair, Rick Parry, said: “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.

“The health and well-being of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge, social distancing can be applied safely. By extending across more EFL clubs we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month.

“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.”

However, Luton swiftly replied to the EFL statement and said they are not able to host fans against Derby due to such short notice.

Their statement said: “On Tuesday at around midday, having received an email from the EFL asking for clubs to volunteer to take part, we put ourselves forward. We responded within the hour because, like many clubs, we are desperate to have our supporters back inside Kenilworth Road.

“To stage a game with supporters here would take a lot of preparation time, and unfortunately, despite asking again from very early this morning, we had heard nothing from the League until a few minutes before they issued their statement stating that we were one of the clubs taking part.

“Sadly, this does not give us enough time to get ready so we are unable to host spectators here for the Derby match.

“We understand that the EFL are beholden to DCMS, but to request clubs to offer and then not back up quickly, knowing there is such little time to prepare, is very disappointing and we are sorry to disappoint supporters who may have raised hopes of attending Saturday’s match.”

In League One, games at Charlton, Blackpool, Shrewsbury and Hull are set to have fans involved, while in League Two it’s at Forest Green, Carlisle and Morecambe.

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 news that the EFL will be running number capped, Covid secure, and socially distanced pilots this weekend.

“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.”

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