CFU chair Robert Osbourn has written to our local MP's asking them to attend the debate taking place on the 9th November. The debate is taking place following a successful petition.
Robert is asking the MP's to support the petitioners and speak in favour of returning fans to football, in a safe and controlled way.
The letter was sent to the following local MP's via post and also to their email accounts
Anthony Browne MP
Jonathan Djanogly MP
Lucy Frazer MP
Daniel Zeichner MP
House of Commons
26th October 2020
Attendance by supporters at League Football Matches
I am sure that you are aware that, under Government Covid protection restrictions, matches played by clubs where one or both are deemed to be elite clubs (Premiership, Championship, Leagues One and Two and National League) are to be played in the absence of any fans.
The impact on both clubs and fans has been severe and its continuation places enormous financial strain on clubs, to a point where it is likely that some could cease to exist and significant emotional and mental strain on very many thousands of fans whose attendance at games has been an important part of their wellbeing.
League clubs derive a very large part of their income from the sales of tickets and from the other sales associated with matchday attendance, such as catering and merchandise purchases. This has dropped to zero under the present restrictions. However, clubs costs have remained the same or increased, due to the necessary precautions being taken to enable matches to take place, such as safety distancing, testing etc.
A great deal of preparation work has been undertaken by clubs across the country, in the expectation, encouraged by the Government, to provide environments that would be safe for supporters, including the provision of sanitising stations, marked circulation and access routes, identification of seating and areas for “bubbles” and appropriate screening. This was undertaken as part of detailed planning and liaison with each club’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) and the licensing authorities.
Locally, Cambridge United FC undertook additional and very detailed work, having been selected as a club which would design and test precautions on behalf of the English Football League (EFL). One “test” match was held on 8th September, with a restricted crowd and this was hailed as very successful by those officials who witnessed it. A second test event was scheduled but had to be cancelled when the Government restrictions prevented it taking place.
The Government indicated that the “behind closed doors” policy would be kept under review, but despite clubs and SAGs having worked to provide safe environments, it has not, so far, been persuaded that limited attendances by fans should be enabled. Indeed, indications show that present thinking suggests that fans may not be allowed back, at all, until Easter, when the season would be all but finished.
If this happens, then there will be a significant number of clubs which will go out of business, I fear. Supporters of football will have no legitimate outlet for their energies having, in many cases, paid significant sums for season tickets, which they will have no way of recouping. This is especially hard on older fans who do not have access to social media or electronic means to view matches.
On 9th November, Parliament is due to hold a debate on the return of fans to matches, following a successful petition. I ask you to support the petitioners and speak in favour of returning fans to football, in a safe and controlled way. Clubs can comply with the stipulations of their SAG and licensing authority and they can and will steward matches effectively, if given the chance.
I would appreciate a response to this letter, which I can share with members and all supporters.
Chair, CFU Trust Board.
To read more about the petition which has attracted over 199,000 signatures click here.
You will be able to watch online on the UK Parliament YouTube channel.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden has already acknowledged fans’ frustrations at the continuing lock-out but insisted the situation would remain unchanged.
Dowden said he “accepted people’s frustrations at the inconsistency” of the rules between the two kinds of events but the rising COVID-19 infection rate meant football would remain behind closed doors.
“If we had social distancing for sport that is a lot of people coming week in and week out going to sports stadiums up and down the country,” Dowden told MPs.
“There are actually very few socially-distanced indoor performances going on. They are not massively financially viable."
“If people are unhappy with indoor performances going ahead with social distancing that is a separate question of whether you stop them, as it were.”
FSA chair Malcolm Clarke said earlier this month: “Football fans have watched with dismay as large-scale indoor spectator events, such as concerts and theatre productions, have resumed with significant crowds in recent weeks while they remain locked out of their clubs.
“There is zero logic in this. Under the professional guidance of the Sports Ground Safety Authority clubs across the country have worked extremely hard over the summer to implement social distancing and getting their grounds as COVID-secure as possible.
“Government should recognise these efforts and the test events that successfully readmitted supporters by bringing football into line with other sectors.”