Glens boss believes that vaccination drive can help push attendances up
Glentoran manager Mick McDermott believes fans should be allowed to return to Irish League matches in their thousands from August, provided all Covid-19 protocols are met.
Supporters were frozen out of grounds by the pandemic but they are now returning with more than 60,000 packing into Wembley for the climax of Euro 2020 last night.
The Glens welcomed around 1,000 fans to The Oval for their Europa Conference League clash with The New Saints last Thursday and Linfield are aiming for a similar number at Windsor Park when Lithuanian side Zalgiris Vilnius visit for the second leg of their Champions League tie tomorrow night.
Spectators can bring an electric atmosphere to matches and Glens boss McDermott is hopeful they can return in big numbers very soon.
“I think it will be the same approach to the travel situation for supporters,” he said.
“You might need to have a proof of vaccine and temperature checks at the gates.
“If everyone is vaccinated then it’s another way of convincing people we can do it safely. If you want to go to events like concerts and festivals, there could be checks and if you are vaccinated you are in.
“Hopefully from the start of next season, we will see bigger crowds because it is important financial income for the clubs.
“We have sold record numbers of season ticket tickets and sponsorship has gone up substantially so the picture is good for us but you need to allow fans in.
“Last year would have been a bumper season for everyone with the fans at matches and that should feed into this season.
“We could comfortably get in between 3,000 and 6,000 at The Oval but the other teams also need Glentoran to be bringing 1,500 fans with them to pay the bills because the sports sustainability money isn’t going to last forever.”
As a new season dawns, the east Belfast giants are still waiting patiently for news of funding to accelerate their redevelopment plans for The Oval.
McDermott added: “If I listen to politicians, they are saying they are committed to the New Decade, New Approach and the phrase I hear them saying is they want to see it implemented in full.
“The sub regional stadia is part of the New Decade, New Approach deal. So if they want to implement the document in full, then they just can’t pick and choose which parts of it they want to do.
“It’s their words, not mine so I’m confident it will happen. If the economy is to improve, you have to build infrastructure such as schools and hospitals and create jobs.
“There’s money to be fought over but we are mentioned in the New Decade, New Approach agreement and if they want to honour that then they have to meet it all.”