Chief Executive Levi Gill provides a statement following news of a change in restrictions on fans attending matches.
Firstly, I’d like to say how delighted I am with the news that supporters may be able to return to The Progression Solicitors Stadium as early as next weekend. With Barrow-in-Furness today confirmed to be in Tier Two, this allows many fans up and down the country to return to one of their great loves and to show support for their teams on the terraces once again.
Supporters will obviously have a lot of questions and, while it won’t be possible for me to answer them all in this statement, I hope to give you a comprehensive overview of what today’s announcement means for fans, specifically with reference to next Saturday’s home game with Salford City. I’ll also look a little further ahead to our other upcoming games and to the plans that we have in place for those.
In addition to this statement, there will be several further updates via the Club website, print media, radio and Club social media platforms in the coming days. We’re also planning a live Q+A featuring our Supporter Liaison Officer. We want to make every effort to ensure that everybody knows exactly what’s going to happen, when and why. So, if your question isn’t answered in the following paragraphs, please be patient while we work on providing more detailed updates.
While we’ve all worked incredibly hard to prepare the stadium and the required documentation for the return of fans, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the suddenness of this decision has caught us slightly off-guard, which is why detailed planning is still ongoing in advance of next weekend and why perhaps not every question can be answered at this moment in time.
Socially Distanced Capacity
So, to the bad news. While today’s announcement theoretically allows 2,000 fans to start attending matches, this figure is intended to apply to Old Trafford as well as to grounds like our own. We still have to be able to socially distance fans inside the ground, as well as ensuring safe access and egress, and this means that each ground has its own ‘Socially Distanced (SD) Capacity’, which has been calculated and included in each club’s Stage 5 Protocol for approval by their local Safety Advisory Group (SAG). We are currently in negotiation with our SAG as to what our SD Capacity will be. This is a complex six-stage calculation and the answer may not be known for several days, but what is clear is that the number will be lower than 2,000. We’re optimistic that once we can demonstrate a high standard of delivery of our Stage 5 Protocol on a matchday, the SAG and SGSA will be willing to allow us to increase this number – especially as national government guidelines change. However, at the moment we are unable to give more precise detail, except to say that we are very confident that our initial SD Capacity will be large enough to accommodate all Season Ticket holders from the outset.
Pilot Event (December 5th v Salford City) and Future Plans
Assuming that our Stage 5 Protocol is approved in the days ahead, our first home game once the lockdown lifts is scheduled for Saturday 5th December against Salford. We’ve taken the decision to use this as a Pilot Event and limit this fixture to Season Ticket holders only for a number of reasons, but primarily because we’re in a majority of clubs which never got the opportunity to conduct a pilot event when they were last made available.
Our ground has been significantly reconfigured since fans were last inside, and we will be asking everybody to behave very differently before, during and after the game. All of which means that we need to start slowly and ensure that both fans and staff are comfortable and able to meet the requirements of our matchday protocol. I appreciate that this will be a disappointment to non-Season Ticket holders, but safety will always be our top priority and the holding of a pilot event has been deemed best practice.
Assuming that our Stage 5 Protocol is approved and we have a successful matchday next Saturday with Season Ticket holders in attendance, we will then move to the next step which is to increase to our full SD Capacity for all future games, starting with 19th December.
Obviously, until we have established the SD Capacity, we are unable to advise how many additional match tickets will be on general sale. What we can confirm, however, is that these will only be available online as they will be e-tickets which fans need to print at home. Physical tickets will not be available to purchase at the Club and there will be no opportunity to buy tickets on the day. Reception will not be accessible to fans on a matchday and turnstiles will not be taking cash payments or selling tickets of any kind.
In terms of the matchday experience, here again we will need to start slowly and build up as we go. Initially, there will be no refreshment huts available and, as fans may already be aware, the Cross Bar and Fan Zone are out of commission owing to the requirements of our COVID procedures. What this means is that there will initially be no opportunity to buy food or drinks whilst inside the ground, although toilets will remain accessible for everybody.
Many people will want to know when match tickets will go on sale for our upcoming fixtures. We will announce more information on this when we can, but tickets will not be on sale until after we’ve achieved two important milestones:
(i) Our Stage 5 Protocol is approved and our SD Capacity is known
(ii) Our Pilot Event has been held and assessed to have been successful
Collection of Season Tickets
We appreciate that fans haven’t yet received their Season Ticket cards. These are all at the Club awaiting collection, which was intended to happen when lockdown ends. Therefore, we’ve made the following arrangements:
- All Season Ticket holders living outside Ulverston will have their Season Ticket(s) posted to them on Monday ‘Signed for, First Class’. If you’re not sure whether this will apply to you due to where you live, please contact us and we’ll let you know.
- For all season ticket holders living in Ulverston or closer (this includes Askam), cards will be available for collection on Wednesday (9am – 4pm), Thursday (9am – 8pm) and Friday (9am – 4pm) of next week (2nd, 3rd and 4th December). Please note the extended opening hours on Thursday.
- No opportunity will be available to collect Season Tickets on matchday. This is again due to reception being closed and the complications associated with setting up a temporary collection point.
There will be additional details issued on Monday. If these arrangements are especially problematic for anybody, then please notify Anya at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will work with you to resolve.
Differences on Matchday
There will be more detail on how matchdays will work given out in the coming days, but below I’ve given an overview of some of the basic principles which will be in place for your safety:
- Each supporter will be given a designated turnstile and an arrival time and will be encouraged to stick to this window. It will be either 2pm – 2.20pm, 2.20pm – 2.40pm or 2.40pm – 3pm.
- Each supporter will also be designated to one of three ‘phases’ for exiting after the game and encouraged to stick to this window. The stadium announcer will call each phase at five-minute intervals following the end of the match and supporters will be asked to exit according to their phase and by their designated exit.
- The main stand will exit row by row.
- Movement during the game should be restricted to the route to and from the nearest toilet.
- Face coverings are required to be worn (unless medically exempt) while in transit and at certain pinch points but can be removed once stationary and watching the game.
All Season Ticket holders will receive an information pack with their Season Ticket card which will give further detail, in addition to the various announcements and events planned for next week which will all encourage further awareness of the measures that we’ve put in place. There will also be signage inside the ground and staff on hand to answer any questions.
Stay safe but enjoy the game!
This will all feel very unusual at first. It is for us too! But these measures have been put in place to ensure everybody’s safety. The more closely we all follow them, the safer we will be. But crucially, the more closely we follow them, the sooner we can get more of our friends and family back inside the ground. The last thing that anybody wants, and one of the results that we were at pains to avoid in drafting our Stage 5 Protocol, is to create a sterile environment where watching football is no longer fun. We want people to enjoy the game. If you’re one of the lucky supporters able to attend next weekend, you should absolutely sing! We want to open our bars as soon as possible, to serve food and drink as soon as possible, and we want many more thousands of fans in attendance. But to achieve this we will have to work together and rely heavily on our fan base to assist us.
Thank you all for your patience in what have been difficult months not only for football but for the whole community. We hope that today’s news and this statement can start to bring a little bit of joy back to football supporters across this town and beyond.