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Tyne Talk

Government announce Newcastle United fans still banned from St James Park

8 months ago

Today (Thursday 26 November 2020) was the big day for finding out whether Newcastle United fans would be allowed back into St James Park after 2 December 2020.

It had been announced on Monday 23 November that fans would be allowed back into sporting arenas (after 2 December) BUT that was dependent on which tier the Government placed your area for virus restrictions.

Tier one and allowed up to 4,000 fans, Tier two up to 2,000, Tier three would be no fans allowed.

However, this Government green light announcement for the return of football fans to stadiums was always likely to prove a red herring for NUFC supporters.

Sure enough, the Government announcing on Thursday morning that Newcastle Upon Tyne, along with the rest of the north east, is in tier three.

Which means no Newcastle fans allowed into St James Park for the foreseeable future.

They say the first review of the tiers will be on 16 December 2020 BUT you would have to be very glass half full to believe anything will change after only two weeks.

For the record, only three places made it into tier one and they were Cornwall, Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly.

Meanwhile, amazingly, the whole of London has been designated as tier two, allowing them a lot more freedom than the likes of us in the north, including allowing 2,000 of them to go and watch Arsenal, Leyton Orient etc etc.

Liverpool awarded tier two as well, whilst the likes of Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham stuck in tier three with us (a list of who is in which tier is on this Government site).

Not a great day overall for Newcastle United regarding the virus impact on football, as Thursday morning saw Steve Bruce reveal a number of unnamed NUFC players are self-isolating after showing symptoms.

Boris Johnson had said on Monday 23 November 2020:

“In tiers one and two, spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing.

“Later this week, we will announce which areas will fall into which tier, I hope on Thursday, based on analysis of cases in all age groups, especially the over-60s.

“Also, [it would involve] looking at the rate at which cases are rising or falling, the percentage of those tested in a local population who have Covid and current and projected pressures on the NHS.”

Before plans were scrapped by the Government for fans to return to stadiums on 1 October 2020, Newcastle United released an official statement (see below) on 13 September, saying they were working on plans for an initial return to St James Park of between 20% and 30% of capacity (10,000 – 15,000 fans).

Many other Premier League clubs reported the same, seeing 20% capacity as the very lowest numbers that would make a return of fans worthwhile (financially).

In other words if you are talking about allowing 2,000 or even 4,000 into St James Park, there wouldn’t be any money to be made, indeed at best it would probably be breaking even when taking into accounts all the extra costs to do with matchday staff and putting in place the necessary virus measures.

So no money to be made and any Premier League club that would go along with 2,000 or 4,000 fans allowed into your stadium, it is really doing it as a service to your supporters, plus of course a first step of hopefully part of the learning curve of dealing with ever increasing numbers in the future being allowed into grounds.

Mike Ashley doing something purely as a favour / service to fans? You wouldn’t get your hopes up too much, would you?

At least that revelation is now delayed, whether Ashley would open up St James Park for only 2,000 fans.

As I say, 16 December 2020 the government say they will first review which tier everybody is in.

Nothing much has changed for me, I can’t see sizeable numbers of Newcastle fans allowed into St James Park until very late this season, if at all.

With the current help / guidance on employed and self-employed furlough from the Government planned up to March / April 2021 time, to me that indicated there won’t be many / any significant improvements across society until getting on for that kind of point in time, including with football.

Maybe eventually somewhere down the line a few thousand will be allowed into St James Park before the end of the season but can’t see more than that if I’m honest.

Here’s hoping better times ahead for the 2021/22 season.

Newcastle United official announcement on arrangements for eventual return of fans – 13 September 2020:

‘Newcastle United hosted a virtual meeting with a small group of supporters this week to discuss the potential return of spectators to matches at St. James’ Park.

Following the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, the Magpies’ final nine Premier League matches of the 2019/20 season and an Emirates FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City all took place behind closed doors, as did Saturdays 2-0 win at West Ham United on the opening day of the 2020/21 campaign.

While the government is yet to formally grant approval or confirm prospective dates for the return of spectators, the Magpies and other clubs across the country are continuing to undertake detailed work behind the scenes to ensure appropriate procedures are in place as soon as it is safe for fans to be present.

Pilot events with significantly reduced capacities have also recently taken place in the UK, including a recent friendly fixture between Brighton and Chelsea at the Amex Stadium.

Representatives from Newcastle United Supporters Trust, NUFC Fans United, Newcastle Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA), Newcastle United Supporters Club London and the club’s Fans Forum joined staff on the Zoom video platform on Tuesday evening to hear about the club’s ongoing planning and to offer their own feedback, ideas and questions as the process continues.

The club outlined its expectation that in the early stages of a return for fans, its capacity for home matches at St. James’ Park is likely to be significantly reduced.

Specialist software, data analysis and comprehensive guidance from relevant safety authorities indicate that around 10,000 – 15,000 seats will be available for home supporters, with the final number dependent on agreed seating configurations and the most up to date government guidelines on social gatherings and social distancing.

It is not anticipated that away supporters will be present in the early stages to minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading.

It is expected that a large number of seats will need to remain unoccupied in order to achieve appropriate levels of social distancing, however the club is analysing ways to maximise seat availability while keeping safety as its absolute priority.

A range of associated subjects were discussed, including fair ways the club could allocate tickets, including a potential ballot for season ticket holders. With a significantly reduced capacity and social distancing an essential requirement, season ticket holders will not be guaranteed their usual seats if they are successful in obtaining tickets, however the club is intending to make best endeavours to allocate seats in equivalent seating categories.

The group also discussed safety and security measures that will help to keep attendees safe, potential changes to available facilities including catering and how the club will be ramping up relevant communications to all supporters both before any tickets sales or ballots and in the build-up to individual matchdays.

The club would like to sincerely thank the supporters who participated in the meeting for sharing their views and for contributing to the ongoing planning process.

The club will be offering further feedback to the group once plans are finalised and comprehensive information will be announced and issued to all supporters in due course.’


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