Luton hit out at EFL after clubs withdraw from fan pilot scheme
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 Morecambe had also withdrawn their match against Cambridge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.