Cheltenham Town Football Club is committed to the health and safety of players, staff and spectators; and to providing a safe and suitable environment during this COVID-19 pandemic at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium.
During November the UK government decided that spectators could return to professional sports events under strict conditions. The purpose of this communication is to inform supporters of the protocols that they will be required to comply with when attending matches. Attending football will be a very different experience to that which we are all used to but if we can all work together, then hopefully the football industry can make further strides towards admitting more supporters and returning to normal.
The government has stipulated that clubs in tier 2 can admit the LOWER of 2,000 supporters or 50% of socially distanced capacity. Unfortunately because the Jonny-Rocks Stadium is not a large ground, our socially distanced capacity is likely to be no more than 2,000 meaning that for the immediate future we will be able to admit around 1,000 people to matches.
While these restrictions remain in place it is therefore only season ticket holders who can attend league games. However, the tier system is being reviewed every two weeks and if football is able to make a success of admitting supporters then we would hope to be allowed larger crowds as things progress.
For the foreseeable future it is expected that no visiting supporters will be allowed in to any EFL matches and the League has currently suspended the regulation that requires clubs to make tickets available to the visiting team.
We have seen over the last few months that the main tools that ordinary people have to fight COVID-19 are social distancing and stringent hygiene. These principles will therefore be applied to football grounds so, for example, seating will be arranged to keep distance between groups and terraces will be divided into sections with limited numbers in each.
There will be one-way systems in place (supporters will generally be asked to 'keep to the right'), hand hygiene stations and controlled access to entrances and toilets. There will be no catering available in the stadium in the short term. Supporters will be able to bring their own food and drink in small bags only. No alcohol will be allowed into the ground.
Supporters will be required to adhere to a code of conduct and to comply with the direction of stewards, who will be on hand to help but will have the power to enforce social distancing if necessary. Anyone refusing to comply with the reasonable requests of stewards will be warned and, in the most extreme cases, removed from the ground.
Face coverings will be compulsory at all times while inside the ground. The reason is because the Jonny-Rocks Stadium is being opened on the basis of one metre social distancing with mitigations as opposed to the recommended two metres. If we open with two metre social distancing the ground capacity will reduce to around 600 so in order to get more people in, face coverings are mandatory.
All season ticket holders are asked to ensure that the club has their up to date contact details for track and trace purposes and under the government's current restrictions no supporters are allowed to travel from a Tier 3 area to attend matches.
Arriving at the stadium
Supporters are requested to arrive at the ground at least 45 minutes before kick-off and there will be a controlled exit from the ground after the match so we request that everyone remains patient while the ground is emptied one section or seating row at a time.
Upon entering the ground supporters must head straight to their seat or terrace place. Loitering or milling in gangways or staircases is not permitted.
At the entrances supporters will be subject to a temperature check and ask to confirm that they have not been displaying from any symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone who has been displaying symptoms must not attend the match and anyone failing the temperature check or questionnaire will be refused entry. Anyone feeling ill with COVID-19 symptoms during the match must make themselves known to a steward, whereupon they will be taken to the dedicated isolation room.
The ticket office will be open for general enquiries and a temporary club shop will operate from the main bar. Due to the current Tier 2 restrictions there will be no bar or hospitality facilities available.
Stay up to date
Finally for now, we should remind everyone that the response to COVID-19 from the authorities has been subject to rapid change and it might also be necessary for the club to fine tune its procedures as further challenges emerge. Supporters are asked to check the official website and club social media channels regularly for any updates. We plan to publish a comprehensive Question and Answer article in the coming days that will be updated at regular intervals.
In closing we would like to state how much we are looking forward to welcoming supporters back to the stadium but must also remind everyone that there is a lot at stake for the entire football industry in this process. Everyone attending football has a big responsibility to try and make this work for the benefit of everyone but by working together we can do it!