England to restart fan-return trials as Celtic watch on
The UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has confirmed that one of next month’s FA Cup semi-finals will host some supporters.
This will be part of a trial programme with the sole purpose of getting fans back as soon as possible. Also part of the project will be the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield as well as the FA Cup final in May. More pilot events are to be announced later in the week [BBC].
The BBC believes that the possibility of having as many as 20,000 fans in for the final is being discussed. They believe that one of the FA Cup semi-finals will host 4,000 fans, with the Carabao Cup to have double that if all goes well.
Speaking to the BBC earlier, Dowden said the following:
“We want to make it as simple and convenient as possible for people. That’s why we are conducting these pilots. The plan is to look at factors like one-way systems, ventilation within a stadium and how you interact in terms of getting to and from the venue.
“The purpose of this is not so much the overall number, it is how they interact with each other. So it’s the social distancing that they have from each other. It’s the behavioural factors. We will be testing them before and after to look at the spread and look how they behave in the stadium.
“We’re not just chucking everyone into the stadiums, it is being done in a very controlled way and the purpose is to get the rules set can so it can be as safe as possible from the 21 June.”
England fan return trials will have Celtic on red alert
Celtic took a leading role in the return of supporters before the second wave of Covid cases hit. The club ran a survey with supporters with the purpose of showing that fans were ready and willing to return to stadia as soon as possible.
In addition to that, the Hoops applied for a trial match with Motherwell at Celtic Park back in August. This was rejected at the time despite the likes of Ross County and Aberdeen being allowed to host just days later [Scottish Sun].
There has been no update yet from the Scottish Government regarding the return of fans. That’s despite the fact that as many as four people from two households can meet outdoors. By the time the FA Cup matches arrive, the “stay at home” rule will be lifted in Scotland [BBC].
The latest from the government on football fans returning came from National Clinical Director Jason Leitch. He told Off the Ball on Saturday that he expects fans back for next season. There were no discussions on potential returns this season.
But for Celtic, they’ll be keeping close tabs on the success of these trial events. It wouldn’t be surprising if Celtic are leading the calls for similar to occur in Scotland at the first sign of positivity down south.
It’ll be interesting to see what progress is made on this as restrictions ease.