Sunderland fans must be involved in Stadium of Light reopening, panel hears

Footballing authorities have been told they must involve fans in the ‘complex’ process of getting them back into matches.

The Stadium of Light
The Stadium of Light

Spectators have been barred from attending games for months, after the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak forced the cancellation of many public events.

Bosses are now working on plans to begin rolling back restrictions, with venues like the Stadium of Light facing a long road back to the attendances they once boasted.

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And officials on Wearside have insisted this will need the backing of ticket holders to be done safely and in a way which doesn’t see restrictions reimposed.

“Key to all planning and preparation work is engagement with the community – the people who will be in attendance at matches,” members of Sunderland City Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee were told this week by council officers.

“Clear, efficient and reliable communication will be vital between the club and the fans.

“Spectators will need to understand what is required of them.

“No capacity has been agreed yet as the club will have to undertake a significant amount of work to test what this will look like, taking into account social distancing guidelines.”

The Sports Ground Safety Authority, which advises the government on spectator safety, has been providing guidance to clubs on measures to reopen grounds.

And in July it announced it has joined up with the Football Supporters’ Association to help get the message about new social distancing measures out to fans.

Competitive games are expected to resume behind closed doors at the Stadium of Light from September.

Before spectators are allowed in again, which could be October under current government plans, club bosses will have to review:

:: Seating arrangements, to comply with social distancing requirements

:: Entry and exit arrangements, including turnstiles, possibly introducing one-way systems

:: All ‘amenities and facilities’, such as toilets and catering

:: Stewarding, security, ticketing and communication plans

Revised arrangements will then be referred to the Stadium of Light Safety Advisory Group, made up of representatives from the city council, Northumbria Police, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, and others, for consideration.

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