Sunderland's Stadium of Light granted safety certificate for maximum capacity for next season - but Covid-19 may still block fans attending games
City leaders have given permission for the Stadium of Light to admit fans next season (2020/21) – if they are allowed back.
Bosses at Sunderland City Council have set a maximum capacity of more than 48,000 for the football ground when competitive fixtures restart.
But with ties due to be played behind closed doors due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak it is uncertain how many will be allowed in at all.
Plans for the resumption of competitive fixtures were heard on Monday, August 10, by the city council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee, which met to renew the club’s safety certificate.
According to council officers: “It’s anticipated the reintroduction of spectators will occur from October 2020.
“But this is subject to the success of pilot schemes proposed under government plans to reintroduce live music and sporting activities.
“Plans are currently being drafted by [SAFC] to address two scenarios – the holding of games behind closed doors and the safe return of fans to view matches at the stadium.”
The panel agreed to renew the ground’s safety certificate for the 2020/21 season, capping attendances at 48,339 for non-segregated matches and 48,095 segregated ties, the same as last year.
But it did not reimpose restrictions on away fans which were recommended by Northumbria Police last time out.
In 2019, officers suggested limiting Sunderland’s League One rivals Portsmouth and Coventry to just 2,000 and 1,500 visiting spectators, respectively, for 2019/20’s fixtures, following disturbances the previous season.
Although the Black Cats are due to meet Pompey again this term, June saw the Sky Blues promoted to the Championship under the ‘points per game’ system.
Council officers said no agreement has yet been made on how many fans will be allowed into the Stadium of Light once the public is allowed to start attending matches again.
But they added ‘clear, efficient and reliable communication will be vital between the club and the fans’ for this to become a reality.
UKIP councillor Steven Bewick asked if the £12,250 fee for renewing the certificate could be waived in light of the financial impact of coronavirus on English football, but was told an answer would require further legal advice.