Leicester Mercury

4,000 spectators for City semi-final, but no fans yet

SELECTED AS PILOT EVENT

- By JORDAN BLACKWELL jordan.blackwell@reachplc.com @jrdnblackw­ell

LEICESTER-SAINTS CLASH

THE presence of 4,000 spectators at Leicester City’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley is “great news”, manager Brendan Rodgers has said - even though the club’s actual supporters will not be able to travel down to the game.

It has been confirmed that City’s final-four clash with Southampto­n has been selected as a pilot event to prepare for the planned opening of all stadiums next month.

It will be the first game in the UK to have spectators in the stands this calendar year.

But there will be no partisan support to cheer on either side, with attendees limited to council staff in the Brent region of London, where Wembley Stadium is, as well as local NHS staff, teachers, and pupils over 18, plus Wembley Park residents.

All 4,000 will have to take Covid tests before and after the game – with data collated by Brent Council and shared with the Football Associatio­n – and they will also have to be socially distanced inside the ground.

Frustratin­gly for City supporters hoping to see their team play an FA Cup semi-final for the first time in 39 years, a small number of fans will be allowed to attend the following weekend’s Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham, with a larger number of spectators to be admitted.

Still, Rodgers is happy that his team can be present at what everyone hopes will be the first game of a route back to full stadiums.

“It’s great news,” he said at his press conference yesterday. “It’s a start in getting supporters back into stadiums.

“Okay, 4,000 in a 90,000-capacity stadium will look small but I think it’s the access for supporters.

“Both teams would have loved to have their own supporters given the opportunit­y, but at least we’re making movements towards supporters coming back, so that’s great news.”

It will be the second match in which spectators have been in attendance at a City game since the pandemic took hold, following the cluster of supporters that were allowed to attend the club’s Europa League round of 32 first leg at Slavia Prague. Then, 600 Slavia fans was the official capacity – a number disputed by Rodgers – but despite their allegiance to the Czech side, the City players were grateful to have people in the ground.

Midfielder Hamza Choudhury said after the goalless draw in February: “It was the best feeling. There weren’t many of them, but it makes the world of difference.

“It makes it feel a little bit more like football.

“Everyone before the game was buzzing, a bit giddy to start playing in front of fans again and to experience them – very loud as well. So, it was good.”

If City beat Southampto­n and reach the FA Cup final, that may be the first opportunit­y for the club’s fans to attend a game since March 2020, with 20,000 supporters expected to be allowed at Wembley for the showpiece occasion as part of another test event.

With the roadmap as it stands, City will definitely have supporters in attendance for one game this season, with stadiums officially opening up on May 17, and with the club’s final game coming at home to Tottenham on May 23.

A quarter of the stadium can be filled according to the guidelines so far set out, which would see 8,000 fans at the King Power Stadium for the Premier League’s finale.

At least we’re making movements towards supporters coming back, so that’s great news

Brendan Rodgers, above

 ?? THE FA/GETTY IMAGES ?? GRAND SETTING: NHS workers, teachers and pupils will be among the 4,000 people inside Wembley for City’s semi-final
THE FA/GETTY IMAGES GRAND SETTING: NHS workers, teachers and pupils will be among the 4,000 people inside Wembley for City’s semi-final
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom