Norwich's Smith urges PM Johnson to allow safe return of fans

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Premier League - Norwich City v Manchester United

(Reuters) - Championship club Norwich City's joint majority shareholder Delia Smith has written an open letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to allow the safe return of limited crowds to soccer stadiums.

Spectators have been either prohibited or only allowed in limited numbers as part of pilot programmes at soccer games in England due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 45,000 lives in the UK according to a Reuters tally.

Smith said allowing fans back into stadiums would be "very positive and uplifting" during these "dark and gloomy times".

"Grown up logic tells us what even the scientists must agree with: temperature checks, with supporters two metres apart, hand sanitising, masks, and so much empty space, distancing and open air has to be perfectly safe," she wrote in the letter

"What's more, it's a far better option than six round a table watching a match inside."

The decision to keep fans out of stadiums has hit clubs hard, with the English Football League (EFL) warning recently that a large number of clubs were on the brink of a financial precipice.

The EFL, which represents the three divisions below the Premier League, said it needed 250 million pounds ($326 million) if clubs are to survive a season where fans are barred from attending games.

"Looking ahead to the possibility and consequences of smaller clubs ceasing to exist, we need to remind ourselves that football is one of the last bastions of what it means to be community in contemporary life," Smith added.

"Clubs at the heart of communities are saving the government and the taxpayer some of the high costs of youth crime... What we all need is good news, hope and what you could get is a whole stash of brownie points.

"England invented the beautiful game, which has become much more than that. An unsung gem that makes an enormous contribution to our society at no cost.

"Please Prime Minister, before the final whistle is blown, can we have our football back?"

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Chennai; Editing by Ken Ferris)