Sky Bet EFL news: Ten clubs given green light to pilot 1,000 fans at league matches

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Supporters are set to attend a men’s English professional football match for the first time since March this weekend after the EFL was given the go-ahead to play 10 matches in front of up to 1,000 spectators each.

The games are part of the government’s pilot event programme to reintroduce spectators to venues on a socially-distanced basis amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The fixtures in question are Luton v Derby, Middlesbrough v Bournemouth and Norwich v Preston in the Championship, Blackpool v Swindon, Charlton v Doncaster, Shrewsbury v Northampton and Hull v Crewe in League One and Forest Green Rovers v Bradford, Carlisle v Southend and Morecambe v Cambridge in League Two.

EFL clubs are still hoping that supporters will be able to return more widely from October 1, but the government is reviewing that date after a spike in coronavirus cases.

EFL chairman Rick Parry said: “It’s encouraging that we are in a position to move forward with the next phase of the pilot programme and give a small number of our clubs the opportunity to welcome back up to 1,000 fans this week.

“The health and wellbeing of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge, social distancing can be applied safely. By extending across more EFL clubs we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month.

“The requirement to welcome spectators back through turnstiles has not diminished in any way, the financial challenges facing EFL clubs have been explained on numerous occasions, they are substantial and a problem that requires immediate solutions.”

It is understood clubs situated in communities which are currently under local lockdowns were excluded from applying to be part of the pilot matches.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said: “I know that many fans are eager to return to football and that jobs depend on this too, so fans will welcome news that the EFL will be running number-capped, Covid-secure and socially-distanced pilots this weekend.

“This will help us build the evidence base to see how we can return fans safely in greater numbers as soon as it is safe to do so.”

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