Lu­ton hit out at EFL af­ter clubs with­draw from fan pi­lot scheme

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - By Tom Mor­gan

The re­turn of crowds suf­fered a fresh set­back yes­ter­day as three of the 10 English Foot­ball League clubs listed for pi­lots pulled out within 24 hours of be­ing an­nounced.

Hull City were forced be­hind closed doors by coun­cil pub­lic health di­rec­tors over Covid-19 in­fec­tion fears, while Lu­ton Town aimed crit­i­cism at the League over a per­ceived lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion prior to their in­clu­sion.

As a re­sult, Lu­ton said they did not have enough time to let 1,000 spec­ta­tors in for their Championsh­ip match against Derby County. More­cambe had also with­drawn their match against Cam­bridge

United in League Two for the same rea­son, but ex­pressed sup­port for the League’s ac­tions.

Lu­ton, who had ini­tially nom­i­nated them­selves as po­ten­tial can­di­dates for the pi­lot, said in a state­ment: “We had heard noth­ing from the League un­til a few min­utes be­fore they is­sued their state­ment stat­ing that we were one of the clubs tak­ing part.” Sources close to the EFL said crit­i­cism was harsh.

Hull’s ex­clu­sion from this week­end’s pi­lots came as less of a sur­prise yes­ter­day, given a surge in lo­cal Covid-19 in­fec­tions.

In a joint state­ment, Ju­lia Weldirec­tor of pub­lic health at Hull City Coun­cil, and Sam Hen­der­son, head of the League One club’s sta­dium op­er­a­tions, said: “On the grounds of pub­lic health and pub­lic safety, this game will have to be played with­out fans in at­ten­dance.”

Mid­dles­brough’s 34,000-seat River­side Sta­dium is among the seven re­main­ing matches to pi­lot 1,000 spec­ta­tors this week­end as part of at­tempts by the EFL to en­sure the Gov­ern­ment sticks with its Oct 1 plan to get crowds back.

The in­volve­ment of Nor­wich City’s 27,000-ca­pac­ity Car­row Road, as well as Mid­dles­brough, was de­scribed by one source close to talks as a “leap of faith”, with the aim be­ing that White­hall would see that clubs would do ev­ery­thing to make the timetable work. Charl­ton, Black­pool, Shrews­bury, For­est Green Rovers and Carlisle United are con­firmed for this week­end.

The Premier League re­newed pres­sure on gov­ern­ment to re­main com­mit­ted to open­ing sta­di­ums on Oct 1 af­ter a meet­ing of the clubs yes­ter­day. “The con­tin­ued loss of match-day rev­enues is hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact across the league as well as on the foot­ball pyra­mid,” a League spokesman said.

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