2,000 fans will cost Walsall money but board call for their return

Walsall chief executive Stefan Gamble has revealed the club will lose money when 2,000 fans finally return – but insists the Saddlers are determined to see them back sooner rather than later.

Banks's Stadium
Banks's Stadium

As the Black Country will be plunged into Tier 3 when lockdown ends on December 2, Walsall will not be allowed to see supporters return.

A review of the tiers is scheduled for December 16 and if Walsall is moved to Tier 2 or Tier 1 they will be allowed 2,000 fans or 4,000 fans respectively.

At the Banks's Stadium, their socially distanced capacity will be 3,270 if they reach Tier 1, while in Tier 2 all season ticket holders will be catered for with the 2,000 supporter limit.

Despite admitting that the club will lose money with a 2,000 capacity, Gamble and the rest of the club's board want to see fans return.

"Perversely, at 2,000 supporters it costs us money to have people in the stadium," Gamble said.

"Season ticket holders have already paid, so there's no additional revenue generated there, but we do incur an extra layer of costs in terms of stewarding and all the costs surrounding a matchday operation.

"In Tier 2, at 2,000 supporters, it would actually cost more money than it currently does to run behind closed doors.

"That said, the supporters are the lifeblood of the football club. It's a soulless place watching the matches without supporters and that cost is entirely justified because we want supporters inside the stadium.

"That's what we've strived for since last March. It's just not the same without the supporters. The club feel that, the players feel that and in terms of generating an atmosphere to spur the players on, it's absolutely vitally important.

"If we were ever to move to Tier 1 and have a capacity of 3,270 then we can generate additional revenue on top.

"You have your season ticket holders plus your matchday tickets and all the catering as well.

"That said, under Tier 2 and 2,000 supporters there are ways of mitigating those costs. We'll be running with food concessions, outside areas to have a drink. We'll be looking at all those other ways to try and generate additional cash to get into the business.

"But fundamentally, whatever it costs the club the most important thing is to get those supporters back through the turnstiles."

Meanwhile, chairman Leigh Pomlett expects a deal to be struck with the EFL and Premier League over a financial bailout in the coming days.

"I've spoken with the EFL and we'd expect some news in the next day or so," he said.

"That will ease the situation that football clubs find themselves in, but it doesn't solve anything long-term.

"We're expecting some news in the next two or three days. It's taken longer than it should have taken but we are edging closer to ratifying a deal, which will be very helpful."

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