Fans to return for Norwich match but Luton turn down pilot scheme opportunity

Carrow Road is set to welcome fans for the first time since March Credit: PA

Up to 1,000 fans are going to be allowed into Carrow Road for Norwich's match against Preston this weekend, but Luton say they won't be able to allow spectators in despite being authorised to do so by the government.

Both clubs were selected by the EFL to take part in the pilot scheme, which aims to test the safety measures needed to get supporters into stadia.

The EFL made the announcement on the afternoon of Wednesday, 16 September, but within an hour Luton released a statement which said they had not been given enough notice to make all the required arrangements.

The statement said: "On Tuesday at around midday, having received an email from the EFL asking for clubs to volunteer to take part, we put ourselves forward.

"We responded within the hour because, like many clubs, we are desperate to have our supporters back inside Kenilworth Road.

"To stage a game with supporters here would take a lot of preparation time, and unfortunately, despite asking again from very early this morning [Wednesday], we had heard nothing from the League until a few minutes before they issued their statement stating that we were one of the clubs taking part.

"Sadly, this does not give us enough time to get ready so we are unable to host spectators here."

The club apologised to supporters hoping to see the team play in person for the first time since March.

Norwich City confirmed they would be taking part in the scheme, and invited season ticket holders to apply for up to six seats via the club website.

Successful applicants will be notified by midday on Friday, and will be given seats in the South Stand spaced apart from other bubbles.

Northampton, Cambridge and Southend's away matches at, respectively, Shrewsbury, Morecambe and Carlisle, will also have fans in the ground.

The extension of the pilot scheme follows last week's successful trial at Cambridge's Abbey Stadium when the U's played Fulham in the EFL Cup.

Up to 1,000 people will watch Luton take on Derby on Saturday Credit: PA

Rick Parry, EFL Chair, said: "It’s encouraging that we are in a position to move forward with the next phase of the pilot programme and give a small number of our Clubs the opportunity to welcome back up to a 1,000 fans this week.

"The health and well-being of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge, social distancing can be applied safely. By extending across more EFL Clubs we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month."

The current limit of 1,000 fans could be lifted as early as October 1, and the Secretary of State with responsibility for sport, Oliver Dowden, confirmed the trial would help the government gather evidence before making future decisions.

Mr Dowden said: "I know that many fans are eager to return to football and that jobs depend on this too, so fans will welcome news that the EFL will be running number capped, covid secure, and socially distanced pilots this weekend.

"This will help us build the evidence base to see how we can return fans safely in greater numbers as soon as it is safe to do so."