A significant step towards fans returning to football stadiums across the country has been taken following an announcement from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on Wednesday.
Supporters have been unable to attend live matches since the season was halted in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the season then resuming in June – but all matches being played behind closed doors.
For Stoke City, that has meant no one in the stands since a 5-1 win over Hull more than five months ago.
However, there are plans for fans to gradually return to stadiums in the coming months and the DCMS has confirmed a raft of new events where spectators would be admitted on a socially-distanced basis.
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This includes the pre-season friendly between Brighton and Chelsea at the AMEX Stadium on Saturday, with the Seagulls announcing that season-ticket holders and some club members will be able to purchase a total of 2,500 tickets for the match.
On September 12, the weekend when Stoke will be in Championship action at Millwall and league football in England returns for the start of the 2020/21 season, fans will be able to attend the Women’s Super League match between West Ham and Arsenal.
Fans will have to wear face masks when entering the stadium but are permitted to remove them when in their seat or for eating and drinking purposes.
Supporters will also have to socially distance and will be instructed to remain in the seat they are allocated.
Stewards will also be permitted to carry out random temperature checks, while supporters’ details will be stored in line with the government’s track and trace system.