EXCLUSIVE: Palios pushing for more fans at Prenton Park

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Two thousand fans will be allowed into Prenton Park this weekend / Credit: Tony Coombes

Tranmere Rovers have called for “more logic” with decisions allowing the return of crowds to major events.

With Merseyside placed in tier 2 of the updated three-tier coronavirus restriction system, Tranmere are now allowed to welcome up to 2,000 supporters to home games, half the maximum allocation in tier 1 areas.

However, vice chairman Nicola Palios told JMU Journalism the club will be pushing to increase the number of fans allowed through turnstiles as soon as possible.

Prenton Park has a capacity of over 16,000 and Palios believes Rovers would comfortably be able to house a higher number of fans safely.

She said: “It was absurd that the Royal Albert Hall was allowed to host thousands of people in an indoor setting when football clubs weren’t allowed any fans.  There can’t be any logic to that disparity.

“Allowing 2,000 spectators in is a step in the right direction but I will certainly be pressing to increase that to 4,000 once it is demonstrated that it can be done safely.

“We are confident that we could safely cope with around 4,500 supporters on a socially distanced basis.  We have a detailed plan for that showing how all of the seating and crowd flow would work for that scenario.”

A reduced crowd also brings with it a bigger financial loss. The League Two side anticipate losing more money with 2,000 spectators than when they were playing in an empty stadium.

Palios explained: “The extra cost per match will be £10,000. It will cost us more money than playing behind closed doors.

“We will not generate any extra income from the 2,000 supporters because they will all be season ticket holders, but we will have to bring in around 200 casual staff.

“That said, we still welcome it as it is vital to keep supporters engaged or people will get out of the habit of going.”

The Kop will not be as lively as usual

There is still excitement at Tranmere for the return of supporters for the game against Walsall on Saturday, with Palios describing her ‘thrill’ at fans being able to see their team in-person at Prenton Park for the first time since February 11. However, she believes the new normal will be a different experience for supporters.

“Watching games behind closed doors has been a curiously sterile affair,” she said.

“Tranmere has always had a very loud support and we miss it. I think it will be quite different.

“The biggest issues are that season ticket holders won’t be able to sit in their own seats and will have to wear masks, and they will have to arrive and be seated earlier than usual to avoid crowds and queues.  But at this point I think the fans are just grateful to be back and able to watch football.”

This weekend is crucial as clubs look to prove they are able to cater for supporters in a Covid-safe way. For many, this is the start of a long road back to once again filling stadiums across the country.

 

About Jayke Brophy, JMU Journalism