Manchester United have announced that the club’s home ground, Old Trafford is set to host football fans amidst the coronavirus pandemic as the club has restructured the stands to accommodate just 23,500 socially distanced fans.
Recall that since football returned to the United Kingdom in June after three months of coronavirus induced break, matches have been played across all the leagues in the UK behind closed doors. Even though clubs and league bodies in the country have been agitating that spectators should be allowed to return to match venues, the government of the United Kingdom has remained more concerned about the health implications of doing so.
The football clubs in the country, especially the Premier League clubs have argued that they have all the necessary capacity to host fans at match venues safely. This argument had earlier pushed the government to announce that fans will start returning to match venues from October 1 but the government changed its mind due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country.
The fact that the UK government insisted that it is not safe for football fans to return to match venues, has forced the Premier League to introduce Pay-Per-View where football fans would have to pay an extra £14.95 per selected Premier League game. Though this did not go down well with a lot of football fans, the league has commenced the practice on October 17.
The Premier League believes that the Pay-Per-View system is the surest way the clubs can generate revenue until the government allows fans to return to match venues.
A club like Manchester United that recently announced that the club lost about £70 million due to the coronavirus pandemic are ready to do anything to generate as much revenue as they can amidst the pandemic.
Hence, on Wednesday, October 28, Collette Roche, United’s chief operating officer announced ahead of United’s Champions League match against RB Leipzig that the club is convinced that they would be able to host spectators at Old Trafford “safely.”
Roche told Sky Sports News that Manchester United “had to redesign what match day looks like” (ahead of RB Leipzig’s visit to Old Trafford on Wednesday) with plans such as staggered arrival times for fans and temperature checks before entry to minimize risks.
“We spent around two months working with the government guidelines to develop the right processes and measures to make sure that we can have around 23,500 people in this stadium safely social distancing”, she said.
“We were disappointed when the government decided not to allow fans back in the stadium in October because we’ve got everything in place to make sure we can do so safely.
“It’s quite bemusing to understand why people can gather in other settings such as on an aeroplane or a restaurant, or even in a cinema to watch football when we know we’ve got the plans and the process is ready to deliver a matchday here safely.”