“People have been encouraged by the Prime Minister to enjoy themselves by going out to the cinema, where they can watch football.
“The public have been encouraged to sink pints in pubs, where they can also watch football.
“But they cannot watch football at our stadiums, out in the open air, with all the mechanisms to make the environment as bio-secure as possible and having had successful test events.
“Where is the sense in that?” an official from the Football Association told The Independent.
“We were told that the government are concerned about supporters using public transport to get to the grounds,” he adds. “Are they teleporting to the pubs and the cinema?
“We were told there is concern fans will go to the pub around the game – that is already happening across the country! Have you tried to get into a boozer to watch a Saturday match?
“How can a packed pub or the cinema be more geared for social distancing and safety than grounds that are held to the highest safety and sanitisation standards?
“We were told that there will be greater strain on the police if fans are allowed back into stadiums and this habit of seeing supporters as a public order threat first really has to stop.”
How can you argue with any of that, especially as so many clubs in the pyramid face the very real possibility of extinction?
What is the counterpoint to it, when there has been no research to prove the return of fans would increase transmission?
In fact, the test events have shown no impact on positive Covid cases.
Brighton’s analysis of their pilot against Chelsea on August 29, when 2,524 fans were allowed into the 30,666-capacity Amex Stadium, “had no effect at all” according to club doctor Rob Galloway.
“What you would be looking for is the figures three or four days after the match and there’s no discernible increase,” he said.
Medical experts in the Premier League have been consulting with their counterparts in Germany and there is bemusement over the government’s restriction on crowds at sporting events in England.
The Bundesliga has been successful in allowing a large number of fans back into stadia, with Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 thrashing of Freiburg on Saturday attended by 11,500. Officials have been confident that they can replicate that model here, with clubs and governing bodies extracting as much information as possible from the German FA (DFB).
There is a feeling in England that the government are still peeved by the criticism they received for allowing Liverpool’s Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid at Anfield and the Cheltenham Festival to continue in March.
That, however, was wildly differing circumstances at a time when it seemed their objective was to delay the reality of coronavirus in the UK. Now, the global pandemic is very much shaping every move sport makes.
In an open letter, the Premier League, EFL, FA, Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship spelt out the willingness to go over and above to ensure the safe return of supporters.
“We will intensify our efforts to pioneer new approaches – working with epidemiologists, scientists and medical experts in areas such as public health, clinical processes and occupational hygiene,” it read.
“This will make sure stadiums are Covid-safe by considering best practice screening and hygiene methods to ensure that fans and the general public will be safe and drive the government’s sporting plans to move faster.
“Stadium environments can be modified and carefully managed. Measures could include screening spectators before they enter the ground, installing temperature checks, requiring masks to be worn, one-way systems and providing a code of conduct for all those attending on a matchday.
“This will all be bolstered by deep-cleaning practices to help further reduce the risk of virus transmission.
“Clubs want to be pro-active on this matter and are willing to consider measures both in the stadium and on the approach that will allay any concerns as to fans’ safety.
“From a travel perspective, clubs will work closely with experts and local authorities to model solutions relevant for each stadium to ease pressure on public transport, while extra parking facilities could be available so a greater proportion of you can travel by private car or bicycle.”
Matchday revenue is, of course, the driver behind this willpower, but without it the English football pyramid as we know it will be altered forever.
Public health experts have pointed to inconsistencies and the lack of science behind the government’s ban on crowds at sporting events, while at the time of writing, a petition to allow football fans to attend matches at all levels has surpassed the requisite 100,000 signatures for parliament to consider it for a debate.
What is there to discuss? If we can watch football at the pub and at a cinema, we should be able to watch it in the more bio-secure environment of a stadium.