Safety of fans is top priority for Port Vale owner



Port Vale owner Carol Shanahan says it will be very difficult for League Two to start behind closed doors next season.

In the meantime, she’s keen to look at options to make it safe for spectators to come back to games once the government’s scientific advice and guidelines make that possible.  

She has revealed that is being discussed in League Two whose clubs rely heavily on gate receipts to keep going.

The subject came up at the League Two meeting this week. While the Premier League and Championship are finishing out the 2019/20 season on the pitch, League One and Two clubs voted to cut short their regular seasons because they can’t afford to play behind closed doors.

The Vale owner explained: “Nobody in football wants fans to come into a stadium until they are safe and until we can put enough in place to ensure as much of their safety as we can. So it isn’t that anybody wants to bring in crowds to make money and sacrifice your fans, absolutely not.

“However, I think you have to be working towards how soon you can do that safely. If you start off with ‘it is going to take forever’ then it will take forever because it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Everybody is in unknown territory, so it is getting the agencies – the government, the safety advisory group, the police and everybody else to say, where do we need to be, what does it need to look like before we can open and what can we do to help achieve that?

“I think it is now incumbent on us to work with the EFL and everybody else. I think we have a duty of care to our fans as well as our players and staff. But part of that duty of care is to help them to safely come back to football as soon as we can.”

However, she says it is very difficult to predict when that could be.

She explained: “The thing we have all seen with Covid is that everything keeps changing. So, it is hard to talk with any form of certainty of what three months time will look like.

“If it was as it is now, it will be very hard because League Two revenues come through the gates. If nobody can come through the gate then where is the revenue going to come from?

“Then that starts a wider debate about what support would higher-up-in-the-pyramid be prepared to give us.”

Vale could find it easier than other League Two clubs to have socially distant crowds because Vale Park is one of the biggest grounds in the division.

But the owner explains there would still be challenges to overcome.

She said: “I think we have fewer challenges than some League Two clubs because we have a 19,000 capacity stadium and gates of about 5,000. So, to actually watch the match at Vale Park it would be easy to socially distance.

“The challenge will be the kiosks, the toilets and particularly leaving the ground. You come in, in dribs and drabs but everybody leaves together.”





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