Brighton & Hove Albion fans will have their first chance to return to the stands at the American Express Community Stadium (previously Falmer Stadium) later this month, nearly half a year after the stadium closed its doors due to public health concerns.
The venue with a 30k-strong capacity will not be filled, though - only about 8,000 fans (Albion season-ticket holders and 1901 Club members) will be allowed to see the team’s upcoming match against Manchester City. This is a clear improvement on the last match in December, when around 2,000 fans had the chance to see a 1-1 draw against Sheffield - and Albion CEO Paul Barber says the larger number of fans will be just one of the several changes to expect.
Fans are eager to return to the stadiums after months of only seeing their fans on various screens - mostly at home, because until now, even sports pubs had strict limits on their attendance. Playing on empty stadiums was an outlandish experience for the players as well, though. When football first returned last year, a German player called it ‘weird’ and ‘outlandish’ to play without hearing the cheering crowd.
The lack of in-person attendance on stadiums had an effect on the players’ performances, and beyond, Even thevwin betting
odds were bent by the unusual circumstances in which the matches had to be played.
Now that the fans will be back on the stadiums in higher numbers, the footballers’ experience will no doubt be much closer to what they were used to before the pandemic hit. And perhaps their performance will also be improved by the crowds’ cheers.
Speaking toSussex Live
, Albion CEO Paul Barber made it clear that there will be “some restrictions” on what fans will be allowed to do when attending the upcoming match. “First of all the capacity is restricted, we are going to have medical questionnaires, people will have to stay socially distanced in the seats we have allocated to them, and like before they have to follow the stewards' instructions,” said Barber.
He also pointed out that it’s very important for the fans to observe these restrictions as strictly as possible because the match is part of the process meant to prove to the government that football is capable to “move back to what we all want to be which is normal again and having full stadiums as soon as possible next season”. If all goes well, Barber hopes to return to full stadiums as early as the start of the next season, perhaps pre-season friendlies before that.