Everything we know about the potential return of Sunderland fans for the League One play-off semi-finals
Sunderland’s qualification for the League One play-offs has got fans excited for a potential return to the Stadium of Light – but what does the government roadmap say about supporters returning to stadiums?
The Black Cats will kick-off their play-off campaign on either May 18 or May 19, which is after the next step on the roadmap to normality.
And that means that some volume of supporters could be able to attend the semi-final ties, with Sunderland fans naturally excited having been unable to attend games in person since March 2020.
So what do we know about the potential return of supporters?
What does the government roadmap say about the return of Sunderland fans for the League One play-offs?
As things stand, fans will be able to return to watch their team in the League One play-offs – albeit in limited numbers.
The government roadmap out of lockdown states that from no earlier than May 17: ‘the government will also allow some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number), and in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number). In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower).’
The Stadium of Light is likely to be categorised as a larger venue, meaning that up to 10,000 fans could be allowed to attend.
However, this is all reliant upon government approval and a green light from the local safety advisory group.
Sunderland and other clubs will have to submit operating plans to show how they will admit fans and ensure all are kept safe.
Lincoln City chief executive Liam Scully explained the process to Lincolnshire Live, saying: “We’re working behind the scenes on operation plans, learning that’s come from test events and the pilots earlier on in the season.
“We’d then have to submit an operating plan to our local safety advisory group. We’ll be working with them, public health and all other stakeholders.
“Only then will we be able to find out if we can have fans for the play-offs.”
How will tickets for the League One play-offs be allocated?
This has not yet been confirmed by Sunderland, and different clubs may adopt different policies.
Lincoln City have already said that their tickets will be allocated via an ‘exclusive ballot’ for season ticket holders.
Will away fans be able to attend the League One play-offs?
This also remains unclear.
In pilot fixtures earlier in the season, ticket sales were limited to home supporters.
What have Sunderland said about the potential return of fans?
Sunderland as a club have not commented, but head coach Lee Johnson has expressed his delight at the imminent return of supporters.
"It can be one of the best things about English football, when the fans are there,” he said.
"It would be massive if some could be there - even just a proportion - because I am really looking forward to that."