As the Swans start to look forward to the play offs and a semi final against either AFC Bournemouth or Barnsley, there was confirmation today that the EFL is in discussion with the Welsh government to allow fans back into the ground for the semi finals in line with what looks set to be regulations across the border.
It was confirmed back in February that clubs in England could – under English guidelines – have a capacity of around 25% of seated areas for games from 17 May but these rules do not yet apply in England.
With Swansea already having their play off position secured and Newport looking set to secure theirs this weekend it would be a massive boost to both sides to know that the home legs could be played in front of their own fans for the first time in more than 14 months.
It was 7 March last year that the Swans last played in front of any crowd at the Liberty Stadium and whilst a 5000 crowd is nowhere near the capacity crowd you would normally expect for a play off semi final, it is a massive improvement on the empty stadium that saw us beat Brentford in the first leg of last season’s semi-final.
EFL chief executive Trevor Birch told Wales Online “We are working collaboratively with the Welsh Government in respect of the potential for supporters to return to Welsh stadia for the EFL play-offs next month and hope that we can agree on an approach that can work in conjunction with the current restrictions in place.
“The league was delighted to host a delegation from the Welsh Government at Wembley last Sunday so they could see first-hand the processes and procedures implemented as part of the Westminster Government’s Events Research Programme.
“The feedback received was very positive and will help inform the position on both sides of the border as we continue to jointly navigate our way through the various challenges.”
The biggest fear of the semi finals would of course be that any of our play off semi final opponents could play in front of a crowd whilst we are asked to play behind closed doors but Birch moved to alleviate those fears “The two-legged play-off matches are hugely significant for both clubs and their supporters and it would be unfair from a sporting integrity perspective to have the support of a crowd at one game and not the other, alongside the financial implications resting on the outcome.
“Both ourselves and the Welsh Government are in agreement that fans safely returning in numbers to stadiums is crucial for the sustainability of EFL clubs in Wales and we will both be working hard to try and achieve a positive outcome not only in the short-term for those who may be involved in the play-off competition but in the longer-term as we set our sights on returning to full stadiums from the start of next season.”