It was great to be back at the Emirates watching Arsenal on Thursday night. Of course with just 2,000 present and socially distanced it was very different from the usual experience, but there was more than enough to make it special. There is simply nothing like being in the stadium to support your team live.
My old matchday routine was simple. Check for ticket, wallet and phone and off you went to the match. That checklist has certainly grown. Now it’s health questionnaire completed, paper ticket printed, phone, photo ID and face mask collected together and finally you are ready to go.
The arrival and entrance to the stadium was very well organised. Arsenal, like all football clubs, are experienced in managing crowds and all these skills were in evidence. The stewarding was friendly and the signage clear.
Temperature checks and hand sanitiser were in abundance and the wide concourses and blocked off rows of seats made it easy to find your place without coming too close to anyone else.
Then the special bit. The teams entered the field. We were together again. You could see the energy it gave the players to see and hear their fans and they rushed to the crowd to acknowledge them.
It was an energy they took into the game as Arsenal played with a spirit and vigour not seen enough this season. Hopefully the return of our fans can help reset the club’s season so far.
But this was about more than just watching football. It was about reconnecting with the Arsenal family. From behind face masks and at a distance of two metres, I recognised many familiar faces.
For many of us watching, Arsenal is a major part of our lives. We are there almost every week throughout the season. It is a major part of our social lives. Not missing the Arsenal is what we plan our week around. Friendships are made and routines established. Missing this familiarity has been tough and you could sense the spring in everyone’s step.
And for many there on Thursday night it was an opportunity to be working again. Crowds need looking after by stewards, caterers and many more who will be so pleased to once again be earning.
So for all these reasons, we must now look to build on Thursday night’s success. Arsenal have shown it can be safe and supporters have shown they can comply with the Covid safety measures and cheer on their team.
Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, on Thursday described the return of fans as a start. My message to him is in two parts. Thank you for championing the return of these matches. And a request that he now work with the Premier League, clubs and supporters groups on getting more fans back as soon as possible.
Let’s have some test events where we use technology and Covid-testing arrangements to get much bigger crowds back as soon as possible. Its time to Bring Back the Fans.
This weekend get a £10 free bet with Betfair, when you bet £10 on a Same Game Multi on the Premier League.
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