Chief Executive Danny Macklin has given his thoughts, as MPs debate the safe return of fans in parliament.
I held a conversation with John Cryer (MP for Leyton and Wanstead) last week. I shared the Club’s frustrations at the lack of movement, prior to this lockdown, for the safe return of crowds across the EFL.
Like every EFL ground up and down the country we at The Breyer Group Stadium have been working tirelessly and investing significantly to ensure the return of fans is as safe as possible. With social distancing and maintaining the rule of six, adhering to NHS track & trace requirements, the mandatory wearing of face masks / coverings, temperature checks, hand washing and hand sanitising stations, one-way traffic flows etc we believe we are well set to provide assurances to our fans.
Of course the UK is facing a significant public health crisis, however the EFL, in collaboration with SGSA and DCMS, has developed a set of detailed and stringent ground safety protocols that will initially see between 25% and 35% of stadium capacity in use.
To date we have sold over 3,600 season cards – that is testament to the incredible support shown by Leyton Orient fans. This Monday (9th November) the return of crowds schedule and matter will thankfully be discussed in parliament. My conversation last week with John gave us reassurances that he will do all he can to push the matter to support us and other Clubs. Whilst other industries, prior to this lockdown, had been allowed to re-open under COVID-19 secure guidelines we feel that sport including at the EFL level has been left behind.
The important role that football plays in its local community has certainly come to light during the past eight or so months – it provides entertainment, a release, a socially distanced opportunity to chat with friends and family. Furthermore, it provides much-needed footfall and therefore revenue for many local businesses.
The pilot test events that were held were deemed to be successful and should have provided the platform for roll out across all 72 Clubs. EFL Clubs will require £400m of funding from their owners to keep operating this season. With any further delay in the return of crowds that sum will only increase and lead to potential eroding of the historical football pyramid this country proudly has.
The onus is on the government to prevent that from happening, action is needed swiftly, whilst we as a Club have benefited from the furlough scheme and deferred (but now paid) PAYE payments the situation with many Clubs is bleak and in some cases, desperate.
We very much hope that in Monday’s discussions that a road-map can be agreed for the swift return of crowds post-lockdown. We urge all fans to share their views on social media using #LetFansin. Here’s to welcoming fans back in the near future to The Breyer Group Stadium.
Leyton Orient Football Club