Hull City vs Crewe Alexandra removed from EFL crowd pilot plans

Morecambe vs Cambridge will also be played behind closed doors

No fans are allowed at the KCOM Stadium for Hull's game with Crewe
Image: No fans are allowed at the KCOM Stadium for Hull's game with Crewe

Hull City's Sky Bet League One fixture against Crewe Alexandra will be played without supporters after they were forced to pull out of the English Football League's 'return of fans' pilot programme this weekend.

The fixture had been among nine across the EFL who were allowed to admit up to 1,000 spectators, but Hull were unable to receive approval from Hull City Council due to the rising infection rate of Covid-19 in the city over the last fortnight.

In a joint statement, Julia Weldon, director of Public Health at Hull City Council and Sam Henderson, head of stadium operations at Stadium Management Company said: "In order for the proposed 'return of fans' pilot match to go ahead at the Hull City vs Crewe Alexandra game at the KCOM Stadium this Saturday, it was necessary to meet 10 public event assessment criteria, established by the Association of Directors of Public Health.

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"The first of these states that there can be no significant increase in the area's coronavirus infection rate ahead of an event.

"Unfortunately, the rate in Hull currently stands at 15.3 infections per 100,000 people, up from 4.2 per 100,000 people last week.

"Consequently, on the grounds of public health and public safety, this pilot cannot go ahead and the game will have to be played without fans in attendance."

MORECAMBE, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19: xxxx of Morecambe tackles xxxx of AFC Wimbledon during the Sky Bet League Two match between Morecambe and AFC Wimbledon at Globe Arena on October 19, 2013 in Morecambe, England, (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
Image: Morecambe vs Cambridge will be played behind closed doors

There will also be no fans present for Morecambe's League Two fixture against Cambridge, with the Shrimps saying "fan safety is of paramount importance" as they look to welcome supporters back to the Mazuma Stadium at a later date.

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The now-seven EFL matches which will be allowed to admit spectators this weekend are Middlesbrough vs Bournemouth, Norwich vs Preston, Blackpool vs Swindon, Charlton vs Doncaster, Shrewsbury vs Northampton, Carlisle vs Southend and Forest Green vs Bradford.

The government restricted pilot events to 1,000 after a rise in coronavirus cases last week, and said plans for grounds to be up to a third full from October 1 would be reviewed.

preview image 1:06
Several English Football League managers react to news that fans will be allowed to attend some games this weekend in a test capacity

Forest Green Rovers chairman Dale Vince told Sky Sports News: "For us at the moment, it is about actually testing out the procedures and making sure all the theory works in practice so that when we are allowed bigger numbers we can make it work safely…I think it will be a really big deal for fans.

"Football is a really important part of the local community, whatever the club, whatever part of the country it is, it is a big part of people's lives, so when that comes back it will be really special".

However, a number of clubs have told Sky Sports News the pilots are not an option for them as they have not been given enough time to get safety certificates approved and because of the financial implications.

Coronavirus has clearly had a massive impact financially on so many - but until a significant number of fans can return to stadiums - there are concerns about the survival of some lower league clubs.

League One Bristol Rovers' turnover is down 50 per cent due to the coronavirus pandemic. Chief executive Martyn Starnes told Sky Sports News he is keen to get fans back, but the numbers need to be higher so it is financially viable.

He said: "There will be additional costs required in stewarding because we would have to make sure the social distancing is being adhered to clearly, car parks have to be managed, kiosks have to be managed.

"My guess would be that we would actually incur more costs having 1,000 people in than if the stadium stayed empty."

Meanwhile, the Premier League has written to the government over pilot plans and say around £100m per month will be lost by clubs across the leagues while matches continue behind closed doors.

National League wants up to 1,000 fans at all games

The Vanarama National League
Image: National League chairman Brian Barwick has written to the government

National League chairman Brian Barwick has written to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden asking the government to consider how its pending decision on the return of fans to football grounds will affect National League clubs, their employees, and local communities.

The National League has also asked the government for permission to begin the new season on October 3 with up to 1,000 fans in attendance at all grounds with social distancing and other coronavirus-secure measures in place.

"The National League restart depends upon crowds being allowed back in stadiums as live attendance is our clubs' largest source of income," Barwick said.

"The government urgently needs to set out a credible pathway for the safe return of supporters, and to ensure our football clubs can continue to function, and to perform their significant role in the sporting life of the country."

'Having 1,000 fans could cost more than empty stadium'

preview image 1:53
Highlights from the League One match between Sunderland and Bristol Rovers

League One Bristol Rovers' turnover is down 50 per cent, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive Martyn Starnes told Sky Sports News he is keen to get fans back, but the numbers need to be higher so that it is financially viable.

He said: "There will be additional costs required in stewarding because we would have to make sure the social distancing is being adhered to clearly, car parks have to be managed, kiosks have to be managed.

"So my guess would be that we would actually incur more costs having a thousand people in than if the stadium stayed empty".

'It's about testing out the procedures'

Forest Green Rovers chairman, Dale Vince, told Sky Sports News: "For us at the moment, it is about actually testing out the procedures and making sure all the theory works in practice so that when we are allowed bigger numbers we can make it work safely…I think it will be a really big deal for fans.

"Football is a really important part of the local community, whatever the club, whatever part of the country it is, it is a big part of people's lives, so when that comes back it will be really special."

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