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HERALD EXPRESS - FANS' ZONE 12/09/2020


THE  FIXTURES  ARE  OUT,  PILOT  MATCHES  CONTINUE  AS  THE NEW  SEASON  GETS  CLOSER (Note: Nick's column was written at the start of the week - there have been developments since then)

With the new season fast approaching the major topic on the lips of ‘Elite’ football fans around the country is about when can grounds allow spectators back in. To this end the Government has sanctioned the return of pilot games, on Saturday for example Harlequins had 2700 to watch their Premiership match against Bath.

But as this column has been reporting over recent weeks, it is no easy matter for clubs to prepare their stadiums as Covid secure. The safeguards put in place on Saturday included supporters being given prescribed entry times and gates with exit times staggered.

And now League 2 Cambridge United will have been the first professional football club to have hosted crowds at their EFL Trophy match against Fulham U-21s last night (Tuesday). Cambridge have also been allowed to admit season ticket holders only on Saturday, as another pilot event, when they play their first League fixture against Carlisle United.

But to be able to open their gates to fans is no easy matter, for crowds to be admitted into the Abbey Stadium was a project undertaken by the EFL and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority while the work of having a safe application of social distancing has been overseen by crowd dynamics experts, Movement Strategies, who will assess these two pilot matches.

Let’s all hope it goes according to plan because the rest of us can’t wait to watch a live match again at Plainmoor but there has been a recent rise in coronavirus cases which could bring this progress to a halt.

In the meantime on Saturday Cambridge knocked out Championship side Birmingham City 1-0 in the Carabao Cup thanks to Robbie Cundy’s first professional goal.

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National League news: the last week has seen a flurry of signings by National League clubs including title favourites Stockport County, Wrexham, Bromley and Weymouth who also appointed Brian Stock as their new manager, as clubs gear up for the coming season.

Of course a big part of a new campaign is when the fixtures are released which was yesterday (Tuesday), too late for this column sadly.

At last the Premier League has come to the rescue with a £5million package to help non-league clubs with their Matchday Support Fund, Step 1 clubs can apply for a maximum grant of £20,000 tapering down to £2000 at Step 6.

On Monday the National League board met with all the clubs to discuss how they can move forward with pilot matches plus confirming each club’s ground capacities but news coming out of the meeting is not very clear other than match day programmes will be optional.

Surely as long as Plainmoor is Covid secure, which by all accounts it is, then why can’t season ticket holders be allowed in for a pre-season friendly?

Meanwhile Bromley have decided not to issue season tickets as they say they cannot guarantee a full season of games. While Barnet have said that the only way fans can watch at The Hive is through buying a season ticket.

Another topic that won’t go away is the question of a salary cap for the National League. Leagues 1 & 2 voted for a maximum of £2.5million on players’ salaries per season for League One and £1.5million in League Two but these are still to be ratified after the Professional Footballers’ Association requested arbitration.

But the consequences of a cap could hit players as, for example, new contracts will see clauses inserted to reduce wages in the event of relegation and so eventually could effect players paying their mortgages. So were the National League to agree a cap would these players’ wages be at risk as those in the EFL? There are clearly arguments for and against having a cap but whilst clubs are not allowed to admit spectators or at best only in limited numbers, for the short term, a cap may make financial sense to ensure clubs can pay their playing squads.

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TUST was sorry to learn over the weekend that the Torquay United Community Sports Trust (TUCST) manager Jamie McInnes has, after two plus years, decided to step down from his role. TUST has enjoyed working with him on community outreach projects and, of course, the popular Fan Zones.

TUST chairman Michel Thomas praised Jamie’s work in the community especially these last six months during lockdown, adding, “ Jamie has given much time to the local community on behalf of Torquay United and he’s to be thanked for all he’s done for the young and old.”

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In last Friday’s UEFA Nations League match between the Faroe Islands and Malta which the Faroe Islands won 3-2, there was a hat-trick for Olsen. Nothing particularly surprising you’d say, but actually the three scorers were all different Olsens. The first by Klaemint Olsen who is, incidentally, the first Faroese to score two international hat-tricks, the second by Andreas Olsen, who scored the only goal on Sunday to beat Andorra, and the third by Brandur Olsen. Oh yes, Andreas Olsen had come on as a sub, replacing Meinhard Olsen!

None of the Olsens are related but the name is pretty common in Denmark.

And where are the Faroe Islands? Tucked away between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic being politically part of Denmark.

With October 3 getting closer there’s a return of ‘Three Word Fun’ - send me your three words that sum up your thoughts and excitement about returning to Plainmoor to: fanszone.tu@gmail.com  Best ones will be published in a future column.

To the Yellow Army stay safe.


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