Port Vale are hoping League Two can return in front of social distancing fans as early as September.
Vale’s chief executive Colin Garlick has stressed that is a hope rather than a prediction at this stage, but clubs are exploring ideas so fans can watch matches safely once government coronavirus guidelines allow it.
One of the suggestions is not allowing away supporters, at least at the start of the 2020/21 season, so clubs will find it easier to keep fans a safe distance around the ground.
In Vale’s case they have a capacity of 19,000 so believe they could accommodate crowds of 4,000 to 5,000, although there will still be challenges about the concourse, kiosks, toilets and managing fans leaving the ground while social distancing.
Garlick said the issue of getting crowds back is being discussed by League Two clubs and some have urged the EFL to look at how that can be done safely.
He said: “It wasn’t unanimous but there was a strong call from clubs to really want to start and play football as soon as we can.
“We recognise this season isn’t going to finish until certainly the first Saturday in August when there is the cup final.
“We don’t want to be left behind. We know there is a focus on the Premier League and the Championship because they are still playing but we made noises along with other League Two clubs to make sure our voice is being heard.
“We are also different. Premier League grounds are close to capacity every week but we are only operating at around 20 or 25 per cent largely in Leagues One and Two.
“So, there is opportunity, if done correctly, for social distancing.
“There is a lot of work to be done on that. But equally we would like to be back playing football as soon as we can.”
He hopes that could be as soon as September if the government’s scientific advice about preventing the spread of the virus considers that possible.
He added: “It is depending on the government. But if you look at the season finishing at the start of August…there is a lot to be thought about but I don’t see any reason at this point why we couldn’t start pre-season around that time.
“That would lead you into a four or five week period and potentially early September, in which case you are arguably only a month behind. I am not saying that is going to happen, I just want to make sure we are not left behind.
“So let’s look at ideas. If they are not practical then fine.”
The chief executive says the safety of fans has to be the priority and so having even limited crowds would present challenges.
He said: “There have to be issues with regard to exit and admission, and with toilet facilities etc. So, common sense has got to come in. You have to manage people in the stadium.
“That’s not always the easiest. Stewards are not always the most popular people at football grounds. We are trying to change that but you don’t want to put them in confrontational positions either.
“But there is a desire to get back and play football. It can’t be at any cost. We always have to be mindful of safety issues, supporters’ wellbeing is the absolute priority.
“But I want us to explore the opportunities and I think ours may be different to those at Premier League level. So, let’s explore it. If it ends up as a no then we have not lost anything.”
One tentative suggestion has been holding games without away supporters, at least initially. That would be against the EFL’s current rules but they could be changed because of the exceptional circumstances.
He added: “You would be able to utilise away ends for home supporters. It is not ideal but, we have 4,000 season ticket holders so arguably could look to place 1,000 in each side of the ground. These were ideas that were mooted very briefly.
“I don’t know how deeply they have been looked at but I know the EFL have done a lot of work and safety officers have been working with the government etc.
“It is looking at all options.”