Next 48 hours likely to be ‘critical’ as fans hope to return to stadiums


The latest information

The EFL has written to the 72 clubs of the Championship, League One and League Two, to provide further clarification on when fans may return to stadiums.

The letter refers to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement that the decision for spectators to return to sporting events will be ‘kept under review.’

Recent law changes in England have seen a tightening on social gatherings, with no more than 6 people allowed together in a social setting at one time.

This emergence of this news less than a month prior to the date upon which there was hope that fans would return to stadiums has thrown these plans into serious doubt.

The EFL letter added that they understand the next 48 hours will be ‘critical’ in determining how plans will proceed regarding the issue:

The struggle

Fans returning to grounds has long proven a burning question, as the UK aims to return to normality where possible. Clubs have felt the pressure, more so in the leagues below the English top tier.

Many teams in the lower divisions rely on the income from ticket sales as their main source of funding. As thousands of fans pass through the turnstiles each week, the money is used to pay staff both on and off the pitch. It is also used to maintain the stadium and improve facilities where possible.

Bradford's Northern Commercials Stadium

BRADFORD, ENGLAND – JANUARY 13: A General View of the Northern Commercials Stadium prior to the Sky Bet League One match between Bradford City and Northampton Town at Northern Commercials Stadium, Valley Parade on January 13, 2018 in Bradford, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

In an interview with the BBC earlier this year, Bristol Rovers midfielder Alex Rodman said: “I can’t see clubs offering contracts in that period.”

There are many implications of this. Whilst clubs once may have been able to hold onto their best talent, richer and more stable outfits can now exploit this unique scenario to offer higher wages.

However, the problems could be worse still. Rodman described how some players live “paycheque to paycheque.” Were a club forced into the position of being unable to pay its players, the significance could be harrowing.

The hope is that the next 48 hours will bring good news to the 72 EFL clubs. Although, with restrictions resurfacing each week, concerns may continue to grow.

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This article was edited by Conor Laird.