The UK government and parliament will formally debate on Monday 9 November whether football stadiums should be at least partially re-opened to fans at all levels of the game.
As a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, football stadiums have been shut to the public since March and all games bar a handful of test events subsequently played behind closed doors.
There were plans to gradually allow limited numbers of fans back in to watch live games from the start of this month, only for concern over rising numbers of cases to see it postponed.
There has been ongoing criticism over the continued forced closure of football stadiums and other outdoor sporting venues, particularly when many indoor aspects of normal life have resumed in some capacity, including re-opening cinemas, pubs, bars and restaurants.
A petition lobbying the UK government to ‘allow football fans to attend matches at all levels’ has gained the necessary traction and will be debated in just over three weeks’ time. Any petition requires at least 100,000 signatures to qualify for a formal debate in UK parliament and, at the time of writing, this petition has nearly double that at just under 197,000.
It argues: “Football is a powerful tool of which allows a range of benefits such as employment, and other important aspects of life. Football can be associated with passion, emotion, excitement and dedication across the community. With Fans attending football games a range of economic benefits are there too.”
The movement to re-open stadiums is endorsed by clubs and various bodies within the sport, with the Premier League, FA, EFL, WSL and Women’s Championship publishing a collective open letter last week, urging the government to re-open stadiums.
“With the EFL, Premier League, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship already staging 11 successful test events recently, we have demonstrated that we can deliver matches safely. The sooner we can return, the sooner we can reunite communities and support local jobs, livelihoods, regional businesses and also the national economy,” the open letter explained.
“We will continue to urge Government to allow us to return fans safely to stadiums. It is positive progress that major arts and music venues have been told they can run socially-distanced events indoors. And now football should be allowed to do the same - in highly regulated and stewarded outdoor environments.”
While outdoors is considered safer than indoors, actually watching games in spaced apart wouldn’t be the main hurdle for the safe return of fans. The greater issue is people getting to the venues and then being able to safely navigate inside and outside the stadium both before and afterwards.
In the open letter, proposed measures to make stadiums safe for returning fans included screening supporters on arrival, temperature checks, requiring masks to be worn, one-way systems, a code of conduct that must be adhered to by every individual and thorough deep cleaning practices.
At least one Premier League club has engaged in a risk assessment over the use of one-way systems on rows and gangways to ensure that fans would not be crossing paths to get to and from seats.