Newcastle United plans for fans' return
Newcastle United hosted a virtual meeting with a small group of supporters this week to discuss the potential return of spectators to matches at St. James’ Park.
Following the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, the Magpies’ final nine Premier League matches of the 2019/20 season and an Emirates FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City all took place behind closed doors, as did Saturdays 2-0 win at West Ham United on the opening day of the 2020/21 campaign.
While the government is yet to formally grant approval or confirm prospective dates for the return of spectators, the Magpies and other clubs across the country are continuing to undertake detailed work behind the scenes to ensure appropriate procedures are in place as soon as it is safe for fans to be present.
Around 2,500 Brighton supporters recently took part in a test event
Pilot events with significantly reduced capacities have also recently taken place in the UK, including a recent friendly fixture between Brighton and Chelsea at the Amex Stadium.
Representatives from Newcastle United Supporters Trust, NUFC Fans United, Newcastle Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA), Newcastle United Supporters Club London and the club’s Fans Forum joined staff on the Zoom video platform on Tuesday evening to hear about the club’s ongoing planning and to offer their own feedback, ideas and questions as the process continues.
The club outlined its expectation that in the early stages of a return for fans, its capacity for home matches at St. James’ Park is likely to be significantly reduced.
Only media and officials have had access to matches in recent months, with strict social distancing measures in place
Specialist software, data analysis and comprehensive guidance from relevant safety authorities indicate that around 10,000 - 15,000 seats will be available for home supporters, with the final number dependent on agreed seating configurations and the most up to date government guidelines on social gatherings and social distancing.
It is not anticipated that away supporters will be present in the early stages to minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading.
It is expected that a large number of seats will need to remain unoccupied in order to achieve appropriate levels of social distancing, however the club is analysing ways to maximise seat availability while keeping safety as its absolute priority.
A range of associated subjects were discussed, including fair ways the club could allocate tickets, including a potential ballot for season ticket holders. With a significantly reduced capacity and social distancing an essential requirement, season ticket holders will not be guaranteed their usual seats if they are successful in obtaining tickets, however the club is intending to make best endeavours to allocate seats in equivalent seating categories.
Cleaning staff have been regularly disinfecting St. James' Park during the coronavirus pandemic
The group also discussed safety and security measures that will help to keep attendees safe, potential changes to available facilities including catering and how the club will be ramping up relevant communications to all supporters both before any tickets sales or ballots and in the build-up to individual matchdays.
The club would like to sincerely thank the supporters who participated in the meeting for sharing their views and for contributing to the ongoing planning process.
The club will be offering further feedback to the group once plans are finalised and comprehensive information will be announced and issued to all supporters in due course.
For the latest government guidance on protecting yourself and others during the Covid-19 pandemic, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.