Joe Palmer has provided an exciting update about staging test events at our new stadium.
Our Chief Executive's full update is published below.
Following the Government’s plans for easing lockdown, a lot of our fans have naturally been asking how this affects us and, specifically, when we’ll be able to finally open the doors to our new stadium.
I am delighted to say Number 10’s new roadmap is good news and, if all goes as scheduled, we will hopefully be able to start the league season in front of full crowds from August.
First, though, we will have to stage various test events in order to be granted a safety certificate. The ONLY people who will be allowed to attend these events will be our own supporters and nobody will be able to play in the ground until these test events have been undertaken and the licence issued.
Before I run through our proposed timetable for this, I must first add an important note of caution. As desperate as we are to see everyone inside Plough Lane, that magical moment is utterly dependant on the Government and whether it feels the country can safely lift social distancing restrictions on the date currently pencilled in – June 21.
Our own plans are based on that staying in place but we are well aware this is something that could easily change and is utterly beyond our control. In the meantime, though, we will work towards that date.
To begin, we have to stage a series of test events. The first is scheduled for May 18, when we will be able to fill Plough Lane up to roughly 25 per cent. In reality, we anticipate it to be somewhere around 1800-2000, once socially distancing rules have been implemented. We haven’t yet decided what this event will be – but most likely it will have to involve a match situation, so it could be a legends’ match, for example. I am sorry to confirm, though, that it can’t be a League One game as the season will be officially over by then.
Assuming that test goes well, we will then be issued with a limited capacity crowd safety certificate, which gives us the ability to host regular matches under socially distanced guidelines. This would mean if June 21 is significantly pushed back, we would be able to play league games next season with limited capacity crowds at the very least. Immediately after that, we will then go into pitch renovations, which will take us up to the crucial June 21 date. Only then, when social distancing and all our current restrictions are over, will we be able to go into the next phase of test events.
There will be two of these. The first, which will see us completely fill the West Stand and no other stands in the stadium - to fully stress test it - will enable around 4000 fans in. The second, hopefully shortly after, will see no less than 6000 fans in across all parts of the stadium. For both of these test events, they must be undertaken under officially sanctioned match situations, so we are aiming to do so as official preseason friendlies during July. However, should the June 21 deadline not bring about a lifting in social distancing, these two test events could be pushed back further and may even mean that our first few home league matches of the new season will be undertaken as test events. We can only keep our fingers crossed.
Once this is all done and approved, we can finally be awarded a safety certificate to host full capacity matches at Plough Lane in the way we’ve all been waiting for.
Again, I must add another note of caution. There could be all sorts of caveats thrown in by the Government which we don’t yet know about. For example, an obvious one might be that only fans who have had a Covid vaccination will be allowed into stadiums or you might require a negative Covid test. Again, we just don’t know at this stage.
The only reasonable certainty at the moment is our first test event on May 18. I can’t see anything halting that and, I repeat, only our fans will be allowed in based very much on the priority group system we set up at the beginning of this season. Supporters that purchased a Debenture and a non refundable season ticket, followed by those that purchased a NRST, will be the first to be invited.
All being well, our first full-capacity game will then come some time in July. Everyone at the club can’t wait to see you experience our wonderful new home for the first time. That moment is edging ever closer but, until then, stay safe.