EFL chief executive Trevor Birch remains cautiously optimistic clubs will be able to kick off the 2021/2022 campaign in front of crowds at full capacity.
This month’s Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham will see 8,000 spectators in attendance, with tickets available for fans of both clubs, residents of the Wembley area and NHS workers. The FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton on April 18 will also see 4,000 supporters return to the national stadium.
It is hoped that the government events research agenda to allow the safe introduction of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown restrictions are eased in England will ultimately lead to an increase in the number of participants.
If the pilot – which could also lead to an increase in attendance for the FA Cup final on May 15 – proves successful and the road to exiting the lockout continues to follow the government’s roadmap, then the lifting of all social distancing measures is scheduled for June 21.
Along with the NHS enforcement, a Covid certification scheme, which could include proof of vaccination, a negative test result, or detectable antibodies, should help reopen the company.
Birch believes that whatever national and local measures are in place, there is real hope for a return to some sense of normalcy for the next campaign.
“Our aspiration and our goal is that from August 6, we will be back in full swing in accordance with the government’s roadmap for unlocking the economy from June 21,” he said. .
“Hopefully the outcome of all these test events will help and hopefully lead the government to allow us to do this.
“The key will obviously be to try to mitigate the spread by removing the need for social distancing that leads you to Covid certification, which will undoubtedly have a role to play moving forward.”
Birch added: “I am positive, our aspiration must be that [full grounds].
“We are not blind to the issues surrounding the difficulties in getting there, but we hope that the introduction of Covid certification, which seems to be the direction of travel, may well help us reach that level.”
In addition to the fans in attendance for the EFL Cup final, Birch said the governing body is working to enable fans to attend the semi-finals and finals of the Sky Bet Championship, League One and League Two play-offs from this season.
He said: “It won’t be a test event as such, but May 17th is another date along the government’s roadmap, so hopefully there will be fan feedback for them. semi-finals and the final.
“We are working in this direction, we have a club meeting tomorrow where we will discuss the possibility of the supporters returning in limited numbers for these semi-finals.”
The EFL chief executive knows it is “vital” that clubs can once again get fans through the turnstiles, with a rough estimate of the collective financial impact of around £ 250million.
“This was offset by a few mitigating factors that kept clubs surviving – the championship loans, the Premier League bailout from leagues one and two,” Birch said.
“We had postponements and salary cuts, blocking the HMRC app, iFollow also helped, so there were mitigating aspects – but another season behind closed doors would have been unpleasant for most clubs.
“We are trying to create certainty in a very uncertain situation to allow clubs to plan and give them confidence in planning for next season.
“Looking positively towards the future, we have the date of June 21 where ‘all systems are gone’, but with a few caveats about it, but we have to plan accordingly.
“The clubs all want to know what to do in terms of season tickets, whether we have to offer iFollow or whether we are confident of bringing fans back early.”