York City Knights Chairman Jon Flatman has said it will be a memorable day when their supporters can finally watch live action in their new LNER Community Stadium.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week set out 17 May as the date when limited crowds can return to live sporting events, providing the Coronavirus vaccine rollout continues to be a success and cases remain low. This means that York fans could watch their side take on Oldham on Sunday May 23 for the first time in their new home.
Work has already been underway at the club in preparation for the return of crowds and Flatman is confident of a smooth transition to finally being able to welcome supporters back after over a year.
“The work in terms of Covid protocols has been ongoing since April last year,” revealed Flatman.
“Because it’s a new stadium there were certain certifications it was required to go through and certain elements of those Covid rules were changing all the time, so we were working with that.
“A lot of work has already been done in the background by the stadium management company, the Council and the management company for the whole complex, so we already know what’s possible and what is not.
“Whether this stadium comes back at 1,000, 2,000 or 4,000 crowds is not yet known, but the plans are in place for whichever one it is.
“The ticketing system has an overlay on it that allows us to maximise the social distancing, whether it’s one person coming with two seats on either side or three from the same family coming together.
“So 90 to 95 per cent of the work to prepare for fans coming back has been done, but as we get closer to the opening date we’ll find out which parts of the stadium are operating under what rules. For example, is the corporate area operating under pub and restaurant rules, or is it different because its in a stadium?”
York’s first game scheduled for their new stadium will take place a week on Thursday (11 March), when they will entertain Hull FC.
“We’ve got an opportunity with the Hull FC game to get things right on the field in terms of having players and match officials arrive safely, park safely and getting the whole process Covid-secure.
“Then once we’re allowed spectators in, we start building from there.
“Lots of key decisions have been made about the Championship in the last year, including to stop the season when we did, when we came back for training and a decision on fixtures. Whether it was luck, chance or ability those have all been the right call so far, so hats off to everyone who made them. We’re now in a position to see a date for fans coming back, and we will soon see players on the field again, which is huge after 12 months away.
“When we do finally get fans in the new stadium it’s going to be a very special moment, and we might get three or four goes at opening the stadium.
“We’ll get one next week with the players being back on the field, then one with a reduced capacity. We may then get one with a reduced capacity and corporate and then we’ll move up to having no major restrictions.
“We want people to be excited to come here and we’re finally getting closer to that prospect.”
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