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Government make new statement on return of football fans to stadiums

3 weeks ago
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The Government have made their position clear on football fans returning to stadiums.

Or should that be, not returning to stadiums…?

A new Government statement on the issue was made on Monday (9 November 2020), delivered by Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.

Speaking at a Parliamentary debate on the issue, Huddleston said the Government position was that they wanted it to happen ‘as soon as it is safe to do so.’

Monday’s debate was sparked by a petition that got just short of 200,000 signatories, the petition wanting the Government to ‘Allow football fans to attend matches at all levels.’

The Petitions committee have to consider allowing a debate in parliament on an issue if a petition on their official site can raise 100,000 signatories or more.

Press by various MPs, Huddleston on behalf of the Government refused to say when he / they expect fans to be allowed back inside sports venues in England, or to give any kind of a roadmap that would indicate what would trigger that happening.

Many football fans and those of other sports see the position as bizarre, when the Government ARE allowing various other events to still take place indoors.

On the 5 December 2020 the London O2 Arena is hosting a Squeeze concert with 4,700 allowed in.

Whilst the Royal Albert Hall is selling tickets for a programme of events in December 2020 where around half of the capacity (2,500) will be allowed to attend.

The Government’s Sports Minister defending their position on Monday:

“One of the challenges we have got is everyone saying ‘can I get back to my stadium?’ and if you times that by multiple levels, multiple leagues and sports, all of a sudden we have got a whole scale which is far beyond what we believe is acceptable at this moment in time.

“But the point made by several members today, that a ‘one size fits all’ [approach] may not be appropriate, is something we’re looking at.

“A key issue is that this is not just about fans sitting in stands inside the stadia.

“We must also consider the whole fan journey as well, from home to venue, considering how fans travel to and from stadia, and the risk of gatherings in and out these venues, and a high number of contact points that this risks.

“We do keep a very close eye on what is happening in other countries.”

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Shadow Sports Minister Alison McGovern challenged the Government position:

“I worry that sport has been left hanging a bit.

“The position that football has been put in compared to other large events is hard to understand.

“We were on a journey [including trials at Premier League and lower league stadiums] and the process needs to be completed.

“So can he say when he anticipates that happening?”

Nigel Huddleston replying:

“We want to get pilots back and fans back into stadia as soon as possible.

“We have had a plan from very early on in lockdown. 

“It has been stated and it’s out there and what we’ve had to do on a couple of occasions unfortunately, is press the pause button.

“But we want to get back to the plan as soon as we can.”

I think that people, whether football fans or whoever, get the most angry and frustrated, when they fell they are not being treated fairly.

There is absolutely zero logic for the Government to claim that a big obstacle to football fans being allowed into stadiums is the problem of how they travel to and from matches, whilst at the same time allowing these events to take place in London.

In London, pretty much everybody will use public transport to get to events such as the ones outlined above. Whereas, if say 10,000 fans were allowed inside St James Park, I would guess a large proportion would drive there and back, a much smaller number of fans attending meaning far easier to park close to the ground.

Nigel Huddleston talks about watching what is happening in other countries, well in Australia they have just announced details of the upcoming series of cricket matches against India. At the end of November and throughout December, most of the matches will see 50% capacity allowed to attend, whilst the test in Brisbane will see 75% of capacity allowed inside The Gabba (which has a capacity of around 40,000, so 30,000 allowed to attend).

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