Mark Catlin admits 'logistical nightmare' as Portsmouth prepare to welcome back football

Football makes its long-awaited return to Fratton Park on Friday, albeit in the midst of a global pandemic.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 5:00 pm

The painstaking preparation has been branded a ‘logistical nightmare’ by chief executive Mark Catlin.

Nonetheless, the Blues are now well-equipped to stage the first leg of the League One play-off semi-final against Oxford United.

Although taking place behind closed doors, Pompey must still follow EFL and local Safety Advisory Group procedures to meet health requirements of those admitted into Fratton Park.

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That consists of relocating the away dressing room to the Victory Lounge, temperature testing those who enter the ground, while ground staff will act as ball boys.

Pompey are seeking to keep numbers below 300, in line with those Premier League, Championship and League Two clubs who have demonstrated football can be played in a safe environment during the coronavirus crisis.

And Catlin believes the Blues are now well prepared to meet the challenge.

He told The News: ‘I think more planning has gone into this game with no fans, than when we are at full capacity.

Football will return to Fratton Park on Friday, albeit behind closed doors. Picture: Graham Hunt/ProSportsImages/PinP

‘It's a very difficult thing to put on, especially with a stadium as old as Fratton Park without modern facilities and space.

‘I would say this is one of the toughest games our safety and stadium security officer Marie Stedman has had to contend with.

‘It has been a logistical nightmare. There have been things such as having single tunnel access, meeting social distancing guidelines when inside the changing rooms, accommodating match officials, locating various members of the press, the list goes on.

‘The whole exercise is to limit the amount of people present on the day. At other games, that has been fewer than 300 people, including players and backroom staff inside the stadium.

‘It is about limiting the spread of the disease – and we are also hoping those present will be under 300.

‘Normally on a match day your target is to try to get as many people into the ground as possible.

‘With this pandemic, it is now all about trying to get the least amount of people in.’

Elsewhere, substitutions will be instructed to sit apart in the stands rather than occupy the South stand dugouts.

Meanwhile, almost 1,000 cardboard cut-outs depicting Pompey supporters will be present in the North stand.

Catlin added: ‘We’ve had many requests to be ball boys, medics, stewards. You name it, we’ve had it!

‘As a football club, if you make an exception for one you then set a rule for everyone else.

‘We are under a lot of regulatory control and scrutiny on the day by the EFL and the local Safety Advisory Group, so we must strictly abide by the rules.’

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