'It is a frustration': What Phil Parkinson thinks of the decision to stop the return of Sunderland supporters

Phil Parkinson says it is a ‘frustration’ that fans will not be able to return to stadiums from October 1 – and believes some financial help will have to filter down into the EFL as a result.

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 7:00 pm

There were initial hopes that elite sporting clubs – such as those in the EFL – would be able to welcome a limited number of supporters back into grounds from the start of the next month having played their opening fixtures behind closed doors.

Indeed, Sunderland had already made plans for up to 11,000 supporters to return to the Stadium of Light in a COVID-secure manner while seven clubs across the divisions had hosted pilot events where they welcomed up to 1,000 supporters into their grounds.

But the government this week announced that the phased return of spectators would be paused as a resort of a rising number of coronavirus cases across the country.

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This is what Phil Parkinson thinks of the decision to stop the return of Sunderland supporters

And while Parkinson says it’s a frustrating development for all involved, he knows there is a far bigger picture at play.

"You look at it, and we were hoping for 11,000 fans to come back in October,” said the Sunderland boss.

"When people are in pubs and restaurants… social distancing can definitely be achieved in a 48,000-seater stadium with 11,000 fans in.

“I feel that clubs understood the important of following the guidelines and were well-equipped to achieve those, so it is a frustration for ourselves, all clubs and the supporters.

"But we know there’s a bigger picture at the moment and we can only do what we can under the government guidelines.”

Sunderland’s fixtures are set to continue as usual for the time being, and Parkinson believes everything should be done to ensure that the sport can continue to be played – albeit behind closed doors.

But in the long-term, it is likely that there will need to be some element of financial assistance for lower league club who will be left re-plotting their spending plans for the coming months.

Some have already called on the Premier League and government to provide support, and Parkinson is of the opinion that something will have to be done to ensure clubs can navigate their way through a tricky time.

"Football is important for the country,” he added.

"I think it’s important that we keep football going and going back into the lockdown when football came back onto the TV screens, it gave everyone a huge lift.

"Not everybody loves football, but a lot of the country do – so I think everything has to be done to be able to carry on in the safest possible way we can, looking after the players and all the staff involved.

"But it’s going to be tough with the money side of it.

“Lower league clubs in particular rely on the revenue from supporters coming into the ground, so something will have to be done in terms of a bailout or some scenario from the Premier League or the government to help that happen.”

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