FA chief backs plans to get fans back inside stadiums by September

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham has backed plans to get football fans back in stadiums by September.

Bristol City and Bristol Rovers fans were last allowed inside their grounds in March and Bullingham had first feared that fans would’t be allowed into stadiums ‘for a very long time’, but he has now reneged on that statement.

Following culture secretary Oliver Dowden’s statement at his most recent coronavirus daily briefing where he suggested fans could be back in by September, Bullingham has agreed that there is hope things will have changed for the better across the country.

When Dowden was asked about the prospect getting supporters back into stadiums, he said: “I would really hope that by the return of the new season we might be in a position whereby some fans could start to return to stadiums. I know that would be another important part of restoring the financial position of clubs.”

Following that, the FA chief exec said: “When we look ahead to September, we are hoping we are in a very different situation than we are now as a country, and we hope at some point we can start having crowds back.

“We’re looking at loads of options; we’re even getting people to map out what traffic flows [of spectators] look like in stadia, explore what it could look like with one-metre, two-metre social distancing and so on.”

The concern that faces the governing body surrounds how to get fans in and out of stadiums, as well as thinking over logistics about crowds at bars and during half-time.

Health advice states that coronavirus transmission risks decreases when people are watching games outside, so the risk will not be as strong once fans are actually inside the stadium.

Bullingham said that the plans could include fans showing a ‘digital passport’ before entering the ground to prove that they don’t have coronavirus, depending on the government’s testing plan.

Clubs in lower leagues were particularly hit hard by the coronavirus with gate receipts a huge part of income and those in the EFL will be extremely keen to get fans back into stadiums as soon as possible.

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