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FSA Cymru update: August 2020

Welcome to FSA Cymru’s third update of 2020 – which will of course be navigating the potential return to live football in the coming months…

During the last month, the FSA Cymru has been consulting partners throughout Europe to see how the COVID-19 virus has impacted their countries and what progress has been made in the effort to start getting supporters back into stadiums.

We have had a lot of feedback and its pleasing to see that a lot of countries are working with fans to come up with solutions. It’s not always the case but luckily in Wales we will be invited to take part in finding ways to get fans back supporting their local teams and of course the National team at all levels.

We have attended the Football Supporters Europe annual congress, albeit on Zoom conference call – it was encouraging to see over 50 participants taking part from all over Europe and even one from the USA.

Although we concentrate mainly on International football We know our members follow domestic football teams both in Wales and England, so with that in mind we have tried to gather information for supporters with help from Wayne Nash, the FSA and Football Supporters Europe.

International Football

The FAW will be working on the basis that all Nations League matches, at least those in September, are 99% certain to be behind closed doors regardless of what the local conditions are in the host country.

It will be a UEFA-wide rule (very likely but not confirmed) and we know already that UEFA blocked Iceland and Denmark who were both hoping to have fans in the stadiums but UEFA are insisting that they have one rule for all games to make sure it is fair and meets strict protocols. They are due to meet very soon to confirm September protocols.

During October England are hoping to allow some fans in for the friendly with Wales, full details are not known, but likely to be about a fifth of capacity with no away fans but nothing confirmed, again, this may be subject to the state of the virus at that time, I am not sure if UEFA can impact on friendly matches, so it maybe up to the council in the Wembley area

With regards to our away games in October and November, the Home Office has said they will support the Fan Embassies if travel is safe and permitted but our advice to Welsh supporters is to plan against leaving the UK.

Things are changing every day, but as we seen in Spain, we may be permitted to travel but then find out we face 14 days self-isolation on our return. We are also unsure about how valid your travel insurance is during the next few months, so if you do intend taking the risk please double check with your travel insurance provider.

We all wish there was better news but also want to present you with the facts as we have them and not give false hope. Our members spend thousands following Wales and plan meticulously in most cases but the next few months are so uncertain it makes planning anything very difficult.

This is what some other countries have done since the beginning of June, not that it may happen in the UK, but it gives you an example of what has been possible:

  • In the Netherlands, there have been limited spectators depending on local facilities. Always keeping the government rule of 1.5 metres in mind. In the case of Ajax, the capacity was set back from 54,990 to approximately 8,500. No away fans are allowed until the return to normal capacity.
  • Germany – the concept is only a guideline for the clubs. It should help the clubs to create their own local concepts. Everything can be different from club to club. The DFL will be meeting to decide if they will have uniform rules, e.g. league-wide rules on away fans. In short: German fans are allowed in stadiums only if there fewer than 35 new infections per week per 100.000 inhabitants in the area – while maintaining social distancing – and tracing of infections (probably personalised tickets). Currently there is no set maximum capacity – it all depends on the situation at a specific club (entrances, concourses, access to the stadium, and so on). There are models in it playing with 50% seating and 12.5% standing areas though. In the end it is for the local health authorities and governments to decide. This could be what the UK may do but mass gatherings are currently prohibited.
  • In France they play before 5,000 people with no real social distancing, 5,000 spectators have been in in the same stand but others stands stayed closed. Their reasoning is the sanitary issues are not inside an open stadium but in the public transportation and during the police and steward searching. So, they work with a fixed 5,000 quota and not with a percentage of the stadium capacity. Asked about how you chose who attends in France we were told its first come first served. Ultras and some other fan groups will not attend due to restrictions and many fans are still scared to attend en masse so not an issue in France.
  • In Denmark, they started of with just 500 attending games but after successful trials have progressed to up to 40% of capacity in Aarhus.

Welsh Domestic football

Obviously with the different levels, there will be different criteria put in place, but all based on social distancing and Welsh government medical advice, but already training has begun.

The FAW and FAW Trust have released guidance on how these changes will be implemented and established a range of resources to support clubs and individuals in the first phase of returning to training. The FAW continues to work with Welsh Government and Sport Wales to develop a phased approach for the return of football in Wales. For the latest COVID-19 advice and information from the Welsh Government, click here.

The next stage will be the resumption of matches and the protocol for that, which should include guidelines about how spectators will be allowed access to grounds.

There are obviously fewer supporters at games in Wales, particularly outside of the Cymru Premier, however each league at whatever level will have to implement the COVID-19 recommendations.

This is going to have a big impact on next season, especially financially, but needs everyone working together to get through this difficult time. Please keep checking the FAW website for further updates.

Welsh government advice last updated 24th July includes the following on spectators:
“Supporters and other spectators should be limited at this stage to only those persons who need to attend, e.g. parents or guardians of children who require their attendance for health or safeguarding reasons. All spectators are to remain socially and physically distanced from each other and from the area of play whilst attending events, including accessing and leaving the venue, use of any facilities and whilst watching game play. Anyone on the area of play, or closer to it than social distancing rules would permit, will count towards the total number people considered to the gathered for the organised outdoor activity, where a limit of no more than 30 persons applies.

English leagues

The Premier League and EFL looking at crowds in grounds possibly in October- aiming at starting season on the 12th September That is likely to be the best-case scenario and there has been draft guidance provided to all clubs which is available here.

This draft may never be finalised due to the ever changing status of the virus but as it stands attending games will be a lot different to what you are used to and no doubt many will not return under these conditions, we fully understand that but also have to respect the wishes of members who are willing to return with the guidance in place.

It is not a campaign issue to fight against, rather a compromise in order to get at least some fans back into stadiums. We obviously want full stadiums, as do the FAW and everyone else – financially it is a disaster and ironically putting these restrictions in place adds to the costs, alternatively every game would have to remain behind closed doors. These are the two options available to us: no fans at all or smaller attendances following the guidelines.

This must be all about safety of everyone, that is a combined responsibility for all of us.

Some possible examples of the guidelines are as follows not confirmed but based on our discussions with the Cardiff City director of operations:

  • Spectators will need to arrive early at stadiums and it’s possible that entry will not be permitted within 30 minutes of kick off. This will allow time for track and trace to be put in place and possible temperature and testing as we move forward.
  • Track and trace will be in place, so that if an outbreak does occur then accurate records of who was in attendance are available. This relies on supporters being honest and not passing on tickets to others, the FAW and clubs will do all they can to enforce this essential tool but fans have to assist with this.
  • Face masks may have to be worn up until you take your seat for the game
  • There may be test events before everything is final with smaller numbers and how this pans out will affect things going forward.
  • Not everyone will be able to attend due to capacity issues but a fair way of deciding who can attend has to be worked out, in some countries many fans have turned down the chance due to restrictions but it’s not always the case and a rotation system may be needed.
  • Supporters must accept that their regular seats are not likely to be available and new seating plans are adopted to enforce the social distancing inside the bowl.
  • Social distancing will be compulsory both in the concourses and within the seated areas.
  • Gaps and spaces will be in place in seating areas, but some family “bubbles” possibly up to six people may be allowed to sit together in groups.

Meeting with FAW and South Wales Police

Representatives from FSA Cymru had conference call meeting with the FAW and South Wales Police on Tuesday 4th August:

FSA Cymru – Paul Corkrey, Kieran Jones, Vince Alm, Allyson Rees, Tommie Collins
FAW – Lucy Mason, Mark Evans, Ian Gwyn Hughes, Rob Dowling, Wayne Nash
Adam Gilliatt, (FAW stewarding) Wayne Palmer (SW Police), Dave Dulin (Wonky sheep)
Apologies from: Ian Davis, Peter Barnes, Kevin Davies, Colin Lewis, Adam Jones

  • We discussed all the above, everyone agreed that getting fans back at stadiums was vitally important, but it must be done in a safe way.
  • Greatly reduced capacities will mean fewer fans being able to attend games which also will have an impact on whether to allow away fans access, which would reduce further the capacity for home fans. So many things to consider and many new guidelines to be put in place, football will not be as we remember it for a long time.
  • Lucy also updated us on the membership situation. She said: “Red Wall membership is still on sale and so far just over 10,500 have bought for the 2020-22 period. There has been an unavoidable delay with the membership packs because of the pandemic but now all the FAW’s production partners are back in operation it is hoped the first batch of packs will be sent around the time of the October matches.” The Red Wall discounts on the FAW.JD app (15%) and Spirit of 58 website (10%) still apply and the codes that were issued last year are still valid. New codes will be issued with the membership packs in due course.
  • FAW have been providing exclusive content to Red Wall members via the FAW newsletter which is sent out by email. Recently Red Wall members have had priority access to the Chris Coleman Euro 2016 interview and there is more coming this week. Plans are also being made for exclusive Red Wall features and content once the players start coming back into camp.”
    The Welsh police reported that they would also be working with the FAW , clubs and Safety groups to facilitate a return to stadiums for spectators and also said they were very pleased by the fact that fans had respected the call to stay away from stadiums during the period of the behind closed games to date.
    Meeting ended

None of the above is ideal or what any of us want but it’s the situation as it stands at the beginning of August. Hopefully by the time of the next newsletter there will be better news for supporters wanting to watch live football.

Related Articles

FSA Cymru update: February 2020

We’re happy to present to FSA Cymru members our first newsletter of 2020.

FSA Cymru update: March 2020

Welcome to the second newsletter of 2020 – which will of course be concentrating on the build up to Euro 2020 but we’ll first be looking at the minutes of our recent meeting with the Welsh FA (FAW).

FSA Cymru update: June 2020

*Our latest newsletter may have mistakenly directed you to our June update – if you want information on August click here*

Cylchlythyr FSA Cymru Ionawr 2020

Blwyddyn newydd dda i’n holl aelodau. Gydag Ewro 2020 ar y gorwel, bydd honno gobeithio’n flwyddyn werth chweil arall.

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