Spectators rage at being snubbed for return to football grounds

Spectators rage at being snubbed for return to football grounds despite 8,000 set to be allowed at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final as fan groups hit out at authorities after being ‘shut out’

  • 4,000 spectators will attend Leicester and Southampton’s FA Cup semi-final
  • They return to Wembley for the first time in four months following the lockdown
  • 8,000 fans could also return for the Carabao Cup final at Wembley next weekend
  • Football supporters say they’ve been ignored and side-lined by the Government
  • The last time fans watched football in England was on December 29 last year 

Spectators are back for football for the first time for four months with 4,000 attending Monday’s Wembley FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton, the biggest gathering in football since the country locked down in March last year.

But despite the relief and the prospect of 8,000 fans at the Carabao Cup final at Wembley next weekend between Manchester City and Tottenham, football fans say they have been ignored and side-lined as the Government’s Events Research Programme plans the return of significant crowds, with 20,000 expected to attend next month’s FA Cup final.

The last time fans watched football in England was on December 29 last year when Plymouth lost 3-2 at home against Oxford in the brief period when restrictions eased in certain areas and crowds of 2,000 were allowed. The last unrestricted Premier League crowd was on March 9, 2020, when 32,129 attended Leicester City’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa.

4,000 spectators will attend Leicester and Southampton’s FA Cup semi-final on Monday

Monday’s semi-final is a test event only open to residents in the Wembley area and local NHS staff, care workers and teachers. At next weekend’s Carabao Cup final, only half the 8,000 tickets will go to fans of the respective clubs, with Brent residents and local key workers being offered the rest.

‘Everyone keeps saying fans are back,’ said Matt Davis, vice-chairman of Leicester City supporters’ group, Foxes Trust. ‘I wish people wouldn’t use that terminology. They’re not. It’s not the first game with fans, it’s the first game with invited attendees. It’ll be extremely lucky if any people in the area are Leicester or Southampton fans.

‘It is great to do a test case as they need proof it works but it would have been good if they could have picked a game that wasn’t as massive as an FA Cup semi-final.

They return to Wembley for the first time in four months following the coronavirus lockdown 

Leicester’s game will be the biggest gathering in football since lockdown started in March

‘Our wish now is that common sense is shown for the final and tickets evenly distributed between supporters. The FA Cup final is such a massive thing, especially for teams like us and Southampton. Whichever of us gets through it just seems so wrong that after everything there could be so few supporters if tickets go through sponsors and affiliated parties.

‘We want to engage fans of all clubs to lobby the FA, the Premier League, the Government, sponsors and affiliated groups for a common-sense approach. It is exactly the same if we get there or Southampton get there.’

Tottenham play in next weekend’s Carabao Cup final and Kat Law, secretary of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust, said: ‘This could have been a really good news story and it isn’t now, as there’s too many people who have been shut out and disappointed. Fans are sick of being called the lifeblood of the game and then the authorities don’t even speak to us.

‘It isn’t the return of fans but of spectators. We all appreciate the need to have some pilot event so we’re all back in August. But nobody consulted with us or with the national fans’ organisation. We [Spurs] played at Wembley for 18 months so we have a really good understanding of the match-day operations there and we think we could have added something.

8,000 fans could also return for Tottenham’s Carabao Cup final at Wembley next weekend

However, football supporters say they’ve been ignored and side-lined by the Government 

‘We would have preferred it if all 8,000 were football fans. If the DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport], the EFL and Brent Council had involved us in those discussions, all of whom are guilty on this one, we’d have been able to get a solution whereby that was possible. And surely that would have been best for all of them?’

Spectators at test events will have to provide proof of a negative lateral flow test for Covid-19 within the past 24 hours and no clinically vulnerable people, under 18s or pregnant women are permitted to attend. Fans will be asked to voluntarily wear trackers so that researchers can study behavioural patterns in the stadium and assess risk. For the Carabao Cup final, travel for City fans coming from Manchester is limited to a supporters’ coach or chartered train, with only 250 allowed to travel by car. 1,750 City tickets will be available to fans in the north west and 250 for fans in London and the Home Counties.

The Premier League is planning to have the last two rounds of games after May 17, when restrictions ease again, allowing every team to have a home match with 10,000 fans.

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