Football fans coming home? Thousands sign petition to return to grounds

More than 8,500 people in the Black Country and Staffordshire have signed a petition calling for the Government to let football fans back into stadiums.

Wolves fans want to get back to Molineux
Wolves fans want to get back to Molineux

Across the UK, almost 200,000 fans have backed the idea – forcing a Parliamentary debate to take place on the issue in the coming weeks.

As of 10am on October 16, 2,146 had signed it in Dudley, 1,533 in Wolverhampton, 1,321 in Sandwell and 1,367 in Walsall.

While in Staffordshire, 1,047 had signed it in South Staffordshire, 730 in Stafford and 548 in Cannock Chase.

They are all among almost 25,000 from across the West Midlands to sign the petition.

The petition on Parliament’s website has gathered 197,000 signatures already, meaning MPs in Westminster will have to debate the matter – now confirmed for November 9.

Petition creator Ashley Greenwood said football is a "powerful tool" that brings a range of economic and social benefits.

He added: "Football can be associated with passion, emotion, excitement and dedication across the community.

Walsall fans can't attend matches

"I ask for the support of this petition as I fear that smaller clubs in particular will go out of business leading to a devastating effect on people."

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, admits there is a growing sense of frustration at the ban on live crowds at sporting events, but insists there can be no change until the spread of coronavirus is curbed.

Speaking at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, Mr Dowden said he desperately wanted to have socially-distanced spectators in grounds from October 1.

He added: "But there is very clear evidence from the scientific community that at this stage of the disease, with rapidly rising infections, we should be imposing restrictions – which we are – not further easements.

“We are doing things that are positively hateful, but the reason we are doing it is to secure public safety.”

Albion fans hope to get back to The Hawthorns

The Premier League says English football loses £100 million every month without spectators, while the English Football League said it lost £50m in revenue in 2019-20 and stands to lose a further £200m if fans do not return in 2020-21.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters questioned why football stadiums remain closed, but indoor arts and music events are still taking place.

He said: "We understand [the committee] has to do things for different sectors but ultimately there’s an inconsistency there, that you can go to an indoor venue, enjoy an evening out.

“We think that’s a really positive thing, the big question is why can’t that be, in the near future, sports venues as well?”

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