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Norwich ‘disappointed and frustrated’ by government’s fans policy

Norwich City v Preston North End – Sky Bet Championship – Carrow Road
(Image credit: Nigel French)

Norwich have called out central government over a perceived “lack of support” for football clubs in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as an “inconsistent” approach in the entertainment industry.

The Canaries’ majority shareholder Delia Smith sent an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday, calling for fans to be safely re-admitted to stadiums in a limited capacity in a bid to tackle the crushing financial impact on the sport as a result of the health crisis.

Pilot schemes to restore supporters to the stands in small numbers were ceased in September amid the growing spike in cases nationally, but many in sport find it hard to square the approach when indoor gatherings in hospitality and a limited number of performance settings are back on the agenda.

Following Smith’s direct intervention, and a separate letter from EFL chairman Rick Parry to culture secretary Oliver Dowden, Norwich issued a formal club statement outlining their dissatisfaction.

“All at Norwich City are becoming increasingly disappointed and frustrated with the government’s lack of support for football and its communities,” it read.

“The government has openly spoken about its desire to support the hospitality, leisure and entertainment industries but, in recent months, has done very little to support football clubs.

“Whilst other areas of society have been opened up in order to protect the economy, it is disappointing that there has been no further discussion on a roadmap for supporters returning to stadia or the financial impact on an industry that employs tens of thousands of people across the country.

“We continue to see people enjoying the cinema, theatre and the arts. The continued inconsistent approach across the entertainment industry is even more disheartening when we have previously seen supporters back in stadiums around Europe and hear of their clear plans and discussions for wider support for the months ahead.”

Norwich have backed Smith’s call for a change of position, inviting the politicians to look again at the issue.

Delia Smith has already written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Delia Smith has already written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Chris Radburn/PA)

While a managed return of crowds would be preferable, if that proves impossible the club are lobbying for increased financial measures.

“Should supporters be categorically unable to return to stadiums because of further restrictions, we ask that the government addresses the urgent need for a clear plan for support for all clubs, from the Premier League down through the divisions,” the statement continued.

“Clubs are the lifeblood of many communities and we fear that unless sufficient support is given many clubs may not exist in months and years to come.”

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said earlier this week in response to prior criticism from within the EFL: “We have been clear that professional football has the means to support itself and have been assured by the football authorities that they have no intention to let any club go bust due to the pandemic.

“We have secured a package for the National League and our focus is now on supporting those sports and sectors that need it most and can not look after themselves.”