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SUTTON URGES FANS RETURN

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CHRIS SUTTON has urged the authorities to allow some fans to attend games in the forthcoming months.

The former Celtic striker has made the appeal after Lyon announced 5.000 home supporters would be granted access to their game against the Hoops at the Groupama Stadium on Saturday.

The same number will be able to see Neil Lennon’s men against Nice in the friendly tournament on Thursday.

However, there will be NO visiting fans allowed in to the ground for either of the warm-up encounters.

The first meeting against Patrick Viera’s side will kick off at 5.15pm while the match against Moussa Dembele’s Lyon will commence at 7.45pm at the weekend.

A statement on the French side’s website read: “For the first time since the official reopening of sports arenas to the public, Groupama Stadium will meet again with some spectators, with a reception capacity set at 5,000 people per day.

“Particularly involved in supporting the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, through its Foundation, Olympique Lyonnais wished to thank, together with the local authorities of Préfecture du Rhône, all personnel involved on the front line during the health crisis (nursing staff, associations and communities, etc.) by inviting them on the first day of the tournament.

“The second day will be dedicated to Olympique Lyonnais fans and members, who will also be able to benefit from invitations by prior registration.”

Celtic are also due to play Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, July 21 at 6pm, but no announcement has been made regarding supporters.

The Parkhead hierarchy have already asked their fans to stay away from all three games.

One-time England international frontman Sutton, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Football fans have to get back into stadiums soon. Not all, but surely some.

“Sitting inside Tottenham’s plush new arena on Monday night as I covered their game against Everton, I glanced around the gaping spaces and the 62,000 empty seats.

“Row upon row. From high at the top of the stadium to the bottom seats nearest the touchlines, you eyed the vast open expanse between them and felt that surely there could have been a limited number of supporters in there viewing with social distance.

“Listen, I’m not going to start mouthing-off about football being wronged and the Government doing the game a disservice.

“I was amongst the loudest voices in the early part of this pandemic who was disgusted and outraged that football was fighting to get back so quickly and discussing potential dates when death rates were rocketing and hospital beds were full.

“Even now, I still feel cautious about the virus and understand the reasons why it is simply impossible and actually irresponsible to open up stadiums to all and sundry with Covid-19 still around and lives still being taken.

“However, at the same time, when you are looking around at other sectors within the UK and seeing them open with measures in place, you have to wonder why football is not in the same situation.

“There’s no padlock on Primark. Why is there one on Pittodrie?

“It’s alright for me to walk into a beer garden and have a pint or sit down in a restaurant and have a meal. You can go on a bus with a mask on, you get the train, you can buy a pair of pants or socks when surrounded by other shoppers.

“Supermarkets offer essential items and it is right that they were always open for food and supplies.

“But I don’t think it is essential for people to go into a cafe and order a latte or nip into an outlet to buy a pair of jeans.

“Yet, although all of these things are now deemed permissible provided the correct safety measures are put in the place and the guidelines are followed to the letter, I can’t see why football and sport in general cannot be afforded the same luxury at this stage of the pandemic.”

Sutton continued: “Hamilton Accies maybe only have a quarter of a capacity in their stadium filled by home fans for an average home games.

“It’s the same for the likes of Livingston and St Johnstone and the situation could be eased yet further with a simple move.

“Recently, I heard Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster say that having away fans at games in the early weeks would not be possible.

“And that makes a lot of sense to me because it takes away the need for segregation and opens much more areas for the home fans to spread out and go into different parts of the ground to help with the social distancing.

“It also helps to not clog up the same turnstiles if people were scattered to all four corners of the park and, anyway, people would come earlier and take their time to get into their designated seat if they knew the rules were in place.

“Closing areas of the stadium can often save clubs money on stewarding, but opening them would be offset because you surely wouldn’t need that many police, if any, with only home fans allowed.

“Now I accept that, in the beginning, it might cause a lot more hassle for the bigger clubs.

“Letting 10,000 into Celtic Park or Ibrox with capacities of 60,000 and 50,000 because of the demand for tickets isn’t a simple one to explain.

“Having to tell some people they are not getting into a game with a season ticket when others can would be an issue for them, but that is going to have to happen at some point, anyway, because we are not getting back to full stadiums straight away.

“There is going to have to be a blended return and it will mean some fans don’t get the chance to go back before others. That’s just how it is going to be.

“I’m led to believe that clubs have laid out their plans and the ways they feel it can be done to the Scottish Government and they are doing that because they are trying to get back on their feet.”

The former Hoops fans’ favourite added: “Football is a sport and it’s our enjoyment, but let’s not lose sight of the fact it’s also a big business.

“A business just like a restaurant group, or a factory chain, or a building site company. With employees and with costs to pay and wages to find.

“If the clubs are willing to do it and they can prove to the Government in the same way that other sectors of business have been allowed to do by bringing in the cleaning methods, the social distancing, the mask-wearing, anything that is asked of them, they should also be given
that opportunity.”

 
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