The phrase running through treacle springs to mind ! Although we are doing a lot of work to prepare for the scheduled return of football, it does seem that for every one thing we complete two more jobs pop up.
Even so, we thought this would be a good time to offer an update on what we have done so far and what everyone may need to be aware of to prepare for when we re-open.
As the players returned to training we were required to apply to the National League to move from Stage 1 (no contact training) to Stage 2 (progression over time to full contact). Before the return, everyone had to attend (via Zoom) a training session on our Covid Operational Policy and they have all been given a detailed list of the daily protocols to follow. Matt even has to send me a session plan before each day's training. Not for me to critique of course (!) but to approve the social distancing elements built into the training. One of the facts of the guidance is that our Covid-19 Officer and Covid Medical Officer have to approve just about everything.
We then completed our Stage 3 Protocols (a return to full contact training and matches behind closed doors), and this is even more complicated as it has to incorporate both the player-related aspects and stadium management on match-days.
Please be aware that match-days as we know them are a thing of the past, at least for the foreseeable future. We obviously want to make life as simple as possible for everyone without impacting on health and safety matters so, to give everyone a flavour of the sort of measures being looked at, here are a few pointers. Remember that this is not written in stone, our thoughts change daily as an idea throws up complications further down the line and, of course, FA and Government guidance may change again: and probably will.
- No entry without a specific match ticket. This means that even season ticket holders will have to go online and acquire (at no cost) a ticket for each game.
- We are not going to be able to provide normal segregation measures to accommodate away fans in the current circumstances. Not what we would want if everything was “normal” of course but impractical given the layout of our stadium.
- QR codes ‘everywhere' to log in for track and trace.
- Greatly reduced stand capacity. This means that people may not get to sit in their favourite seat, even if they have reserved it
- Greatly reduced capacity in the bars. We are still exploring the best ways to run the bars and it is coming together but it will mean that the bars are not open at half-time.
- “Red Areas” that are strictly for players only (plus coaches, officials etc). This will include the players' tunnel and is a mandatory requirement. So, no access to spectators at any time.
- Social distancing on the terraces and in the queues for the toilets, snack bars and club shop.
- Restricted numbers in toilet blocks, we will order in extra temporary facilities for every game.
- When we score, no shouting just polite applause ! OK, so I made that last bit up but there is an element of truth to it.
- No match programmes ! We will be moving to online editions so that we can maintain social distancing/hygiene requirements in the stadium. Lyall is exploring the best solutions and we hope that everyone, including those of us who collect the programmes from every game they go to, will understand why we are doing this.
Indeed, we hope all of our supporters will understand why we are having to do all of the above. and more. It's not what any of us want, we would all love to turn the clock back 12 months, but it has been made very clear to clubs that if we are not doing all we can we risk not being allowed to open at all.
Chairman of the Board and Club Covid-19 Officer