Cambridge United forced to cancel pilot event for fans to return to the Abbey Stadium for Carlisle United match
Cambridge United fans have been denied the opportunity to return to the Abbey Stadium for Saturday's intended pilot event against Carlisle United in Sky Bet League Two.
Having successfully hosted 862 supporters for the EFL Trophy fixture against Fulham under-21s, the second game of piloting the safe return of fans to football stadia was set to be the opening league match of the campaign with an increased attendance.
But following the change in government guidance yesterday (Wednesday, September 9), the club has had to cancel the return of supporters.
With the crowd intended to be 2,000 for the Carlisle game, tickets had been issued accordingly. But with the capacity now halved followed the Prime Minister's announcement, after discussions with the relevant safety authorities, the club have had to take the difficult decision to play behind closed doors.
It was felt that there would have been too many invalid tickets in circulation for a game where safety has to be the No 1 priority.
The short timeline meant that even with re-ticketing and direct communication to all fans, the club could not entirely mitigate the risk to fans and stewards of people arriving in good faith for the game with tickets that are invalid and being unable to attend given the reduced capacity.
Cambridge United chief executive Ian Mather said: "We understand there will be disappointment from our supporters, but we hope they will recognise the reasoning as safety of all stakeholders has to be our key concern.
"We have looked long and hard at different solutions and held a number of discussions with the public health and safety authorities, but it is not possible to mitigate the obvious risks given the change overnight to capacity.
"Cambridge United remain very proud of the collective achievement on Tuesday night and must re-iterate the football club’s immense gratitude to the supporters whose exceptional co-operation contributed majorly to the evening’s success.
"We are hopeful that the knowledge and learnings gained will allow the return of supporters to stadiums across the country as soon as possible, and Cambridge United stands ready to participate in future pilots to accelerate that process at the appropriate time."