Sunderland AFC planning to re-open the Premier Concourse as the Stadium of Light gets ready for 2020/21

Sunderland are planning to reopen the Stadium of Light’s Premier Concourse to ensure as many supporters as possible can watch the Black Cats this season.
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Club officials discussed the plans during a meeting with supporters groups as they laid out plans to bring supporters back to the stadium.

It is expected that the new League One campaign - which will begin on September 12 - will be played behind closed doors, with current government guidance stating that supporters can return to sporting events from October 1. This date is still provisional, but is the current timescale being worked towards.

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But this will be at a limited capacity and with social distancing measures in place, meaning clubs will have to adapt their stadiums accordingly.

Sunderland AFC are planning to reopen the Premier ConcourseSunderland AFC are planning to reopen the Premier Concourse
Sunderland AFC are planning to reopen the Premier Concourse

And Sunderland are already taking some steps to ensure they will be ready to welcome fans into the Stadium of Light in a safe manner.

A meeting was held earlier this week between the Branch Liaison Council – which incorporates a number of supporter groups – and club officials, including Supporter Liaison Officer Chris Waters, Head of Safety and Security Steve Neil and Deputy Ticket Office Supervisor Lesley Campbell.

The trio laid out plans for how the Stadium of Light will be adapted to ensure social distancing, with a limited capacity set to be in place.

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But to increase the number of supporters able to access games, the club are planning to reopen the top tier of the West Stand – which has been closed since the summer of 2018, other than for high-capacity fixtures.

The meeting minutes read: “The Premier Concourse will re-open during this period. It is important to optimise the number of supporters allowed back in the stadium.”

Sunderland are also planning to implement a number of additional safety measures to ensure they meet the criteria set by the Sports Ground Safety Advisory Group and the local Safety Advisory Group. As per the meeting minutes, these include:

- Ensuring no aisle seats are used to prevent ‘brush past’ when supporters are on the move

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- Optimising the number of supporters in each row by allowing families to be sat in ‘bubbles’ of up to six people

- Keeping two unoccupied seats either side of each occupied seat (other than when people are sat in ‘bubbles’)

- Implementing social distancing in the stadium concourse

- Taking temperature checks upon arrival at the Stadium of Light

- Opening only one turnstile at every double turnstile

- Installing hand sanitiser stations within the stadium

It remains unclear whether away fans will be allowed to attend EFL games during the early stages of supporters being allowed back into stadiums, with clubs still waiting on guidance from the EFL and the government over this issue.

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Clubs are also still waiting for clarity over whether supporters will be asked to wear a face covering when they return to stadiums.

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