Coronavirus: EFL 'prepared as can be' for return of supporters to league games

A socially-distanced crowd as Cambridge United host Fulham Under 21s in the EFL Trophy
A socially distanced crowd of 862 wearing facemasks were the first fans to see a competitive game of football in England this month when Cambridge United hosted Fulham Under 21s in the EFL Trophy

The English Football League is "as prepared as can be" for the return of supporters to matches, according to the organisation's chief executive.

This weekend seven clubs will pilot crowds of up to 1,000 - the first time spectators have been at league games since the Covid-19 lockdown in March.

EFL clubs lost £50m in gate receipts last season and estimate a £200m loss if there are no fans this season.

Rugby union and cricket have already had pilot events.

"I am confident that the work that has taken place means we are as well prepared as we can be," Dave Baldwin said in an open letter to supporters.

"It is important to remember that football is one of the most regulated industries in the country when it comes to managing large events, so we believe we can be an exemplar to implementing guidance that allows people to undertake 'normal' activities, such as attending football matches, and set examples of how to return to a degree of normality safely with social distancing in place.

EFL pilot fixtures


  • Middlesbrough v AFC Bournemouth
  • Norwich City v Preston North End

League One

  • Blackpool v Swindon Town
  • Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers
  • Shrewsbury Town v Northampton Town

League Two

  • Carlisle United v Southend United (13:00 BST)
  • Forest Green Rovers v Bradford City

"Clubs have been working to put in place a range of systems and processes to ensure the safety of all supporters at our matches. However it is vitally important that all match attendees play their part in making each event safe and enjoyable and to do so we need your continued support and cooperation."

There have been limited pilots of spectators at football matches since lockdown measures were eased.

Brighton and Hove Albion's pre-season friendly with Chelsea saw 2,500 people in the 30,750-capacity Amex Stadium, 862 were at the Abbey Stadium for Cambridge United's EFL Trophy win over Fulham Under 21s earlier this month and last week's Women's Super League match between West Ham United and Arsenal saw 734 people attend.

Two Scottish Premiership games - Aberdeen v Kilmarnock and Ross County against Celtic - had crowds of up to 300 attend them this month, but plans for more events have been put back because of a rise in Covid-19 cases.

National League clubs have also had permission for pilots of up to 1,000 spectators with friendly matches confirmed at Dagenham & Redbridge, Yeovil Town, Dartford and Notts County on 22 and 26 September.

"In the coming days and weeks the EFL will also continue its discussions with government as we look to get fans back in stadia in greater numbers post 1 October," added Baldwin.

"We will endeavour to continue to provide answers and solutions, whilst keeping the health of our clubs, its staff, supporters - as well as that of the entire nation - in mind."

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