Along with other supporter groups, we were initially very sceptical about games being played behind closed doors. But in recent weeks it has become increasingly clear that the cost of not completing the season would be dangerously high for the game.
In discussions between fan groups and the football authorities, all sides have emphasised the need for public health considerations to come first. So, a huge amount of work has gone into creating an environment that is as safe as possible for those who will be needed at the stadium to stage games, and to minimise the impact on people in the areas surrounding the stadium and transport routes to it.
Once those involved with staging the game were satisfied it was safe to go ahead, we began conversations about how fans could play their part. THST reps have been in regular contact with the Club and with the FSA and Premier League over recent weeks.
FANS AT GROUNDS
We were clear that, despite some alarmist comments from some quarters, we did not think there was a serious chance of large numbers of fans congregating outside grounds when games are played. Football fans are also frontline workers, vulnerable groups, people with family and friends who are shielding – a wide cross-section of the public which has for the most part observed advice during lockdown to avoid spreading the virus. So, we have no reason to believe the vast majority will do any differently when it comes to football.
We also pointed out football fans, by definition, would want to watch the game so most would opt to do so from their own homes. With safety measures being strictly enforced around the stadium, the immediate vicinity of the ground will also not be a particularly welcoming environment on match days. We emphasise that point now.
In discussions with THFC, we made it clear that while we had no problem with measures that enhanced the viewing experience for viewers at home and that enabled fans to show support for the team, we were against any measures that would try to artificially replicate the presence of fans.
We also made the point, at Club and Premier League level, that not every fan who attended games regularly had a cable TV subscription. We wanted to ensure they were given access to their team’s games when they were screened, and we’re pleased to see that passes to enable those fans to access some of those games have been negotiated across the league. THFC is writing directly to fans to explain the offer.
We also wanted to take time to mention the small but dedicated group of fans who have taken pride in not missing a live game for years. While being able to watch a game inside a ground does not seem that significant in the face of everything else we are dealing with at the moment, we know that having to break the run of attending live games is going to hit some of our fans very hard and we wanted to acknowledge that. That does not, of course, mean we think any one fan is more worthy than another, just that we understand what the impact of having to break the run of games attended in these circumstances will be on some.
When Friday comes, we’ll all be hoping for a successful performance on the pitch, and that everything goes smoothly off it. We want to record our thanks to all at the Club, Premier League and within the Civil Service and emergency services who have worked so hard to create the conditions in which the restart can happen. We also want to thank all those Trust members who have showed such support for the NHS over the last few months, donating £2,255 to our Meals for the NHS fundraiser and contributing in so many other ways to slowing the progress of the virus.
The Club’s own efforts to support the NHS by hosting some of the services normally on offer at the North Middlesex Hospital will also continue, with an assessment made after the first two match days about whether it will be possible for those services to remain open on the day of games.
We will continue to liaise with the Club, football and local authorities where we can as this season is taken to a conclusion, and as plans for what could be a very challenging 2020/21 season are advanced. We will focus on ensuring the fan perspective is properly considered and will continue to do so in a measured and practical way.
Thank you for your continued support, and COYS!
17 June 2020