11:45AM, Thursday 26 November 2020
Maidenhead United have read the headline news about the potential return of fans to York Road, now they’re waiting on the all-important details.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that supporters could return to grounds in lower risk areas after the end of lockdown on Wednesday, however, while that’s fantastic news for clubs like Maidenhead and Slough Town, the devil will be in the detail for United’s CEO Jon Adams.
Clubs in tier 1 will be able to admit up to 4,000 supporters, or 50 per cent of their capacity, whichever is lower, from December 2, with clubs in tier 2 able to admit 2,000, or 50 per cent of capacity.
With the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead having now been placed in tier 2 it means the Magpies could be allowed to admit up to 2,000 supporters, but Adams is working on a more conservative estimate.
The side is due to host Dover Athletic on Tuesday evening (December 1) but they are not scheduled to play again at York Road until Wealdstone visit on Boxing Day.
“It’s great news, fantastic news,” Adams said.
“It’s great because we can’t wait to have fans back in, yet it’s slightly tempered because we don’t exactly know what all this means for us yet.
“We’ve the headline in terms of the numbers, but we now need to receive guidance from the league and FA about what that really means. What rules do we need to apply in terms of capacity and calculating our capacity?
“Having four or two thousand fans in a Premier League stadium, which has a capacity of many tens of thousands is very different to having two or a thousand fans in York Road. Our capacity is 4,500 so it would be 2,000, but it’s wrong to speculate on that.
“The devil is always in the detail on these things and we need to find out whether we still need to be working within the protocols that we had developed in the first instance.
“We need to ensure we welcome fans back in a safe way.
“We could initially go for a slightly reduced crowd, but we don’t yet know what our numbers could be. If the 2m social distancing rules apply that will bring our capacity significantly below a thousand. How we seat people in the stands might be slightly different also. Once we know that we can use it as a basis for working out how many fans we can safely accommodate back in the ground.
“We’ve actually got most of December to work this through, as our next known home fixture (that fans will be allowed to attend) is on Boxing Day. Potentially we might have one before that if we get drawn at home in the FA Trophy on December 19.”
However things pan out Adams expects there will be a need for ongoing financial support from the Government beyond Christmas and into the new year.
He admits being surprised by the speed at which fans will be allowed to return to grounds, particularly off the back of a second national lockdown, but while it will be great for the club to bring back a core number of supporters in December, Adams doesn’t expect it will drastically alter the club’s position financially. He also hopes this move by Government doesn’t prevent the club from receiving the full amount of its Lottery grant, worth £252,000 over three months.
“I’m surprised we’re going straight out of lockdown into a place where fans can be welcomed back, but I’m very pleased that’s the case,” he said.
“We need to now work out what this really means for the club. If we’re only allowed a limited number back in then it won’t transform our position financially, but it will still be great to get those supporters back in.
On the funding he added: “We haven’t had that guarantee yet. It’s certainly secure up to the end of the month, but we haven’t had formal confirmation either way as to how it might be impacted for December.
“We’ll be feeding back to the National League that we should receive that funding next month because we’ve only got one home game.
“I’m confident we will receive all the funding and then we’ll need to try and understand what the implications are for the additional funding we heard about last week for beyond Christmas.
“That’s been announced in headline terms so we know there’s some money available for the National League structure, but we don’t know any detail as to how that might be made available.
“The return of fans may impact on that as well because we have to understand that there may be many clubs that won’t have any supporters returning because they’ll be in tier 3. We’re all going to be impacted in a slightly different way and I’m sure there will be some pragmatic discussion with the FA and National League about future funding.
“I will be planning conservatively on the expectation that there will be lower numbers of fans in the ground. But the funding is about the wider impact. Supporters and their income is a key part of that but we have a variety of different revenue streams that have been impacted such as our sponsorship which is significantly reduced this year.
“There are a number of factors to consider beyond the return of fans to grounds and I expect there will be a need for ongoing support beyond Christmas anyway.”
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