Back to agony and ecstasy! Fans return to football stadiums | UK News

Fans are crowding Linda’s hamburger van for the first time in over nine months.

Linda herself is busy flipping patties on the grill, but her assistant, Annie, sums up what it means for fans to return to the stadiums.

“It’s just awesome,” she says. “It’s great to see everyone smiling again, it’s like a little normalcy has returned. ”

Linda’s van is right outside the entrance to Adams Park, the home of Wycombe Wanderers. They haven’t had any supporters here since February 22 and, in the meantime, have arguably enjoyed the greatest successes in club history, promoted to the EFL Championship – the second tier of English football – for the first time in 133 years.

Annie says it’s like a bit of “normalcy” to have returning fans

They won the playoffs at Wembley almost empty without any of their own fans in attendance. “It was the best day and the worst day, very bittersweet,” says Mark Bowring, a lifelong Wycombe fan.

“I’m so excited to be back here to watch them in the Championship, it’s fantastic to see some familiar faces again, but I’m so sorry for the fans who aren’t there. ”

Another fan joins. “It’s not just football, it’s a community,” she said.

Under the latest government regulations, outdoor stadiums in Tier 1 areas are allowed to accommodate 4,000 supporters or 50% of stadium capacity, whichever is smaller. At level 2, like Wycombe, 2,000 ventilators are allowed, which is 50% capacity.

A breakdown in communication between central government and local council meant Wycombe had adapted its planning to a pilot event, so only 1,000 supporters were allowed in to see their struggling squad take on Stoke on Wednesday night.

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Queuing outside, they are allowed to enter one by one, some stopping to have their temperature tested, grabbing their ticket as if it were gold.

This is not the pre-pandemic fan experience. Fans are socially left behind with at least three seats between each party, mask wearing is mandatory, and no food or drink is for sale in the stadium.

American owner Pete Couhig is thrilled to have returning fans, even if it costs him dearly. “Right now these matches are costing us a little more money to make, to have 1,000 fans,” he said.

“Game day ticket sales are huge in the championship. We expected most if not all of our games to be sold this year.

“Instead, we don’t cover our costs with selling tickets or selling food and drink. ”

Travel to and from the ground remains the government’s main concern

There has been a huge effort across football to get the fans back. Many believed that up to a third of supporters would be allowed to return in October after a series of pilot events, but the second wave made those plans impossible.

Even now, there is frustration that more supporters are not allowed to participate given that these are outdoor events. But the authorities insist that it is travel to and from the stadium that remains the concern.

The hope is that with the vaccines on the way, by the end of the season, stadiums like Adams Park will be full.

“A vaccine has been cleared for the public and it will be a big step forward not only for the football industry, but for the entire hospitality industry,” said stadium manager Gordon Reilly. “It could mean we can have a full house here before the end of the season, that’s for sure. ”

For now, these fans are thankful to be here to cheer, even as they applaud a 0-1 loss at the end of the night.

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