Tue. Dec 1st, 2020

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Man Utd chief Woodward questions inconsistencies over return of fans

2 min read

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has urged the government to follow the lead of other European countries and let supporters back into grounds.

Fixtures in the top six divisions of English football remain behind closed doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Woodward said United had plans in place that they believe would allow a partial reopening of Old Trafford.

The club have also installed contactless entry points at the ground in preparation for a return for fans, but government plans to allow a partial reopening of stadiums from October 1 were shelved as a result of rising infection rates, despite successful test events taking place.

But Woodward has seen the successful return of fans across the continent and is now urging the government to allow that to happen in England, comparing the rules around sport with the reopening of indoor theatres and cinemas.


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“While the situation in Greater Manchester and the UK as a whole continues to evolve, our plans for this are well advanced and we are confident of ours and the whole league’s ability to welcome them back in a safe, bio-secure environment,” said Woodward.

“Crowds have been permitted to return to varying degrees in over 20 European countries, albeit with significant capacity restrictions to allow for social distancing, and we urge the UK government to follow these positive examples as soon as it is safe to do so.

“While we recognise that public health must always be the priority, what is needed is consistency of approach. If people are allowed to sit in a plane for hours, or in the cinema, or even watch football in a cinema why not outside in a stadium environment which is professionally managed and controlled?

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“If indoor concerts are allowed, why should outdoor, socially-distanced football fans be treated differently? Fans are the bedrock of this game and some of the inconsistencies out there are frustrating for them and for the clubs.”

During Wednesday’s call with investors Richard Arnold, United’s group managing director, added: “We can’t provide any precise timing on return for supporters. We remain optimistic. In the meantime we continue to prepare to welcome back our supporters with hygiene and social distance protocols.

“We have used the downtime to implement upgrades to enhance the supporters’ experience, such as contactless entry with mobile ticketing.”

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