Norwich City’s plans for supporters return paused
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Plans for a partial return of supporters to football stadia next month have been paused by the government amid safety fears after a surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
Norwich City were one of two Championship clubs involved in a pilot scheme that saw 1,000 supporters watch their 2-2 draw with Preston North End on Saturday - but now permission to push on for planning for more supporters to flow through the turnstiles have been paused.
The Canaries had been planning for up to 8,000 supporters to return to Carrow Road next month in a socially distanced, Covid secure way and were widely praised for their proactivity in staging a pilot event 48 hours after it was confirmed that they could be held.
The Premier League wrote to the government this month to warn that football stands to lose £100m a month while games are played behind closed doors. A number of EFL clubs are also recording significant financial losses due to supporters not being in stadiums.
Boris Johnson announced that new coronavirus restrictions could be in place for at least six months - with the prime minister confirming that stadiums would be without fans for the foreseeable future.
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The wider fear is that those clubs suffer the same fate as Bury and Macclesfield Town - with a number of sporting bodies urging the government to create a “comprehensive support package” for the sport and physical sector combining investment, tax incentives, and regulatory reform in order to help clubs, organisations and facilities stabilise and survive.
Cabinet minister Michael Gove said: “It was the case that we were looking at a more staged programme of more people returning. It wasn’t going to be the case that we were going to have stadiums thronged with fans.
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“We’re looking at how, for the moment, we can pause that programme but as and when circumstances allow, we can get more people back because the virus is less likely to spread outdoors, but the nature of sports events is their is a lot of mingling,” Gove told BBC Breakfast.
“People look back now at the beginning of the pandemic and look back at some of the major sporting events allowed then and asked the question - why were they allowed to go ahead?
“What we must do now, whatever the wisdom of decisions then, is to look at sporting events now with caution but look to do everything we can to support our great athletes and clubs through what will be a challenging time.”