Portsmouth preparing for fans' return this season - but questions to be answered

Pompey will fight to get as many fans back in Fratton Park as possible in the event of supporters returning for the play-offs.

Friday, 26th February 2021, 5:00 pm
A packed Fratton End. Picture: Joe Pepler

Blues chief executive Mark Catlin welcomed the prospect of spectators being allowed to attend live sporting events from May 17, as part of the government’s roadmap to coronavirus recovery.

But he warned there are a number of issues which could impact the amount of fans returning to PO4 this season.

Pompey could conceivably see fans at their home again this term in the event they go into the play-offs, with Monday’s announcement stating up to 10,000 or 25 per cent of seated capacity, whichever is lower, could attend.

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On that basis around 5,000 people would be allowed in to Fratton Park, but those figures don’t take into account the measures which have to be put into place for entering and exiting stadia.

And it’s that issues which could yet present problems for Pompey to overcome.

Catlin said: ‘We welcome the news and are obviously looking into it.

‘If we end up in the play-offs and look at tying in potential dates with Boris’ roadmap, there is of course the possibility some fans could be allowed in.

‘However, I would caveat that with the fact it’s not really been discussed yet and we need some certainty.

‘We will fight tooth and nail to get every last fan in we can.

‘But unfortunately the rules and regulations are out of our hands, and sometimes it can work against us with an old stadium like Fratton Park.

‘We haven’t had any real direction as of yet.

‘With all these headline figures there’s caveats. I’ve seen the 5,000 figure mentioned, but how would that apply at Fratton Park in regards of social distancing.

‘There’s still a lot of fine print around social-distancing measures and distances in regards of accessing and exiting the stadium along with seating as well.

‘We just have to be careful that we don’t over-promise as a club.

‘So until we have the finer details and there’s an assessment at Fratton Park it’s hard for me to comment on exact numbers we could get into the stadium.

‘If you look the lower South Stand as an example, and how narrow it is underneath in the corridors it is a difficult situation.

‘As always the devil will be in the detail.’

Catlin pointed out another factor which needs to be considered in fans returning for the play-offs is that of sporting integrity.

There is no confirmed date yet for the semi-finals, with the final game of the normal season on May 8 and fans allowed to return nine days later.

Catlin added ‘How will it work, for example, if one play-off semi-final falls before the date and one the other?

‘Would it be fair to have fans at one stadium and not the other?

‘If you do end up at Wembley you can have equal numbers of supporters there, and that’s fair enough.

‘But I’m not sure how we’d view it if we were at home in the first leg and not allowed fans, then we went away for the second leg to a big club and they could have fans in. How fair would that be?’

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