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Crowd cuckoo land: It's madness if we're not already making plans for fans to return

Liam Beckett


Coleraine fans

Coleraine fans

Coleraine fans

If the experts now feel we can socially distance in supermarkets, garden centres, shops and the like, then surely to goodness we can do the same at a football match?

Why we haven't moved earlier in preparation for the possibility of real football returning and the accommodation of whatever number of fans is deemed acceptable still baffles me.

It's blatantly obvious that clubs simply cannot play games behind closed doors in Northern Ireland because players and referees still need their wages and, without paying fans coming through the turnstiles, those type of mathematics simply don't add up.

Unlike the English Premier League, our grounds are rarely filled to capacity, but with proper planning, I feel all clubs could still uphold social distancing criteria while allowing a limited number of supporters into the ground.

If demand did happen to outweigh supply, this would quite easily be remedied by offering season ticket holders first refusal followed by a first come, first served policy for any remaining tickets - which, of course, would be sold online to further minimise person-to-person contact.

All entry points to the stadium would be manned by club staff fully equipped with all the necessary PPE as well as a temperature gun, which I am reliably informed are reasonably priced and which could perhaps be paid for by the Irish FA out of the reputed £3.8million they've received from UEFA to help with issues arising from the pandemic.

This would enable stewards to properly check everyone on entry. Obviously, if anyone showed any signs of concern, they would automatically be refused permission to enter.

This practice would reduce the possibility of anyone entering the ground with symptoms of the virus. In addition, I would make the wearing of face masks compulsory.

Opening the gates earlier than normal would also help reduce queuing and, of course, it would be the responsibility of each club to clearly mark out the relative queuing positions both outside and inside the ground.

All unwelcome hassle but, by the same token, I'm quite sure each club would have more than enough responsible personnel to see it through.

Plus, medical advice suggests that the coronavirus is less effective outdoors, which is a good enough reason to have already had contingency plans in place.

Drastic times more often than not demand drastic actions and it shouldn't be seen as unreasonable to explore every conceivable avenue in order to seek a solution.

These measures would go a long way in administering sensible, measured and responsible methods which would enable us all to get back and enjoy our football once again.

Incidentally, any idiot who refused to comply with a club's protocol on health and wellbeing should be immediately shown the door and then hit with a lengthy ban. There would have to be a strict zero-tolerance policy.

So, my message to the game's custodians is a simple one - can we not at least get some of these proposals on the table and up for debate as soon as possible? Otherwise, for some clubs, it may well be a case of too little, too late when their very futures are being threatened.

Belfast Telegraph