All being well, Newcastle United fans will be back inside St James Park in May.
Last month, the Government announced the various steps towards returning to some kind of ‘normality’ in our lives.
Those steps including the 17 May 2021, when if there are no major setbacks, that will be the date when 10,000 fans or 25% of capacity, whichever figure is lower, will be allowed back into Premier League stadiums as well as other outdoor sporting arenas.
To provide a level a fairness, the Premier League then announced plans to have fans inside grounds at the final two rounds of matches this season, by moving the second last round of fixtures to 18-20 May before the scheduled final round of games on 23 May. This would then allow all clubs to have one home and one away match, with obviously the home game seeing some supporters returning to back their team in the final stages of the season.
The date of 17 May 2021 always looked a little odd, with it timed to be two days after the FA Cup final, one of the biggest dates in the sporting calendar.
However, it now looks a little clearer as to why that date wasn’t seen as a major issue affecting the FA Cup final, as Wembley on Saturday 15 May 2021 is now set to have fans inside for that final.
The DCMS (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) are planning a number of pilot events ahead of that 17 May 2021 date to test out the return of spectators to various sporting arenas, with the FA Cup final planned to be one of these events, with hopefully up to 20,000 fans allowed to attend.
The World Snooker Championship (17 April to 3 May) at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is set to be one of the test events for indoor sport.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden:
“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing.
“We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen.
“We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.”
These test events will be aimed to help then finalise plans for 21 June 2021, which is the date when the Government has scheduled to ‘normality’ and almost all restrictions lifted, providing there are no setbacks.
The hope for football of course is that the start of the 2021/22 season in August will then see the mass return of football fans to stadiums.
As for Newcastle United, St James Park is set to have up to 10,000 NUFC fans back inside for the Sheffield United home match, if the plans to reschedule the second last round of PL matches to 18-20 May goes ahead.
With Newcastle now favourites to go down alongside West Brom and Sheffield United, the return of NUFC fans to St James Park could well be a very tense and nervous affair, rather than automatically being a celebration of the return of fans after over 14 months of empty stadiums.