EFL chairman Rick Parry says decisions on whether a Covid-19 vaccination will be a fan’s passport to enter a football ground will not be taken until next year.
Parry’s organisation is gearing up for the return of a small number of fans at EFL grounds from Wednesday night, with clubs situated in tier two under the Government’s new regionalised plan set to be able to welcome up to 2,000 spectators for each game.
He said Wednesday would be “a really exciting day” for those EFL clubs and their supporters, and is looking forward to more good news in the months ahead as British and American scientists seek approval for vaccines.
The minister in charge of the vaccine rollout, Nadhim Zahawi, has said that being vaccinated is likely to be voluntary, but that it was “probable” venues such as sports stadiums would ask for proof of vaccination before allowing entry.
Parry said it was too early to make a decision, and told the PA news agency: “I don’t know yet. That’s a next step.
“The points we’ve made consistently over recent months have been not only are we very experienced at managing crowds in probably the safest environment that there is, we also have our own track and trace built in by definition.
“We do know who our supporters are, we do know who’s in the stadiums, so how that’s going to be linked to the rolling out of the vaccine, honestly I think that’s a post-Christmas issue so I don’t want to commit on that. We’ll take it one step at a time.”
Matches at Luton, Wycombe, Charlton, Shrewsbury, Cambridge and Carlisle are set to welcome a small number of spectators in on Wednesday evening.
The EFL has issued a draft code of conduct for fans to its clubs, who have then been able to make certain adaptations.
On face coverings, the EFL has made it mandatory for them to be worn on entry to and exit from the stadium, but has only recommended they be worn at all other times.
Cambridge are asking that supporters wear them at all times except if they are under 11 or have a medical exemption, or when eating or drinking.
The Us’ code also asks fans to “take care to avoid where possible shouting and singing”.
Despite the fact the match-going experience will be very different, Parry is excited to be welcoming supporters back.
“It’s been a long time. I’ve got used to going to games with no fans and enjoyed it, but it’s definitely not the same,” he said.
“This is a really exciting day, but the other point to make is that it’s just a step. We’re sure it will succeed, clubs will definitely embrace this properly and enthusiastically, fans will as well.
“The pilots we held (in September) were extremely successful in terms of everybody behaving sensibly, everybody feeling safe, everybody enjoying themselves.
“We’ve every reason to believe that will be repeated and so the hope is that as we get to the spring we will see, step by step, increases in numbers, because as I said this doesn’t solve the problems, it is very much step one, but a very, very welcome step one.”
Parry warned the numbers involved meant this was not an “economic panacea” for EFL clubs and said that in many cases it would create additional cost for teams to stage matches.
He said dialogue with the Premier League over a £50million rescue package for clubs in Leagues One and Two had been “very positive” over the last fortnight.
It is understood the £30million portion of that package proposed as loans has been a stumbling block.