Leeds United chief on Elland Road police backing, COVID-19 testing, season ticket benefits and fan 'likeness' on seats
Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear writes exclusively for the YEP.
The footballing world has finally got the bit between its teeth and a return to play is imminent across Europe, including a start date and tentative schedule for the Championship that will see us kick-off on June 20 and complete by either the end of July or the beginning of August.
It seems now that only a significant worsening of the broader public health context can derail the plans to complete both the Premier League and the Championship.
Encouragingly the national trends for the virus are moving in the right direction and the government are gradually lifting the lockdown restrictions including, significantly, on Monday the decision to allow numbers totalling the entire readership of this column to congregate together in outdoor spaces.
The EFL is now moving to the next stage of planning including protocols for friendlies, stadia, and away travel.
Our position has been that we will play our remaining games under any conditions as long as they maintain the principle of a level playing field.
The suggestion that a handful of selected fixtures, on police advice, are played at neutral venues, clearly breaches this principle particularly for decisive matches.
Fortunately, West Yorkshire Police are in support of our home games being played at Elland Road as they know that this is the optimal way to manage the risk of supporters congregating and creating either a health risk or the threat of disturbance.
This enlightened stance demonstrates the excellent operational relationship we enjoy with our local force.
Importantly we know that we can trust our supporter base to act responsibly and, whilst we will all be disappointed and frustrated not to be able to enjoy the conclusion of the season together, nobody is willing to put what we are on the brink of achieving in jeopardy.
The media focus is now understandably on covering the twice weekly virus test results, but after more than four rounds of testing there should be a level of confidence that the incident rates are manageable, especially when you recognise that most squads manage a natural squad injury rate of 15 per cent.
I undertook my first test this week and whilst I imagine I made more of a fuss than Gaetano Berardi, it is nothing that can’t be easily integrated into the daily training ground routine for the long term.
My negative result allowed me to see first-hand quite how rigorously the protocols are being adhered to and how focused the team are on getting back to their best.
Sadly I could only observe from a distance and therefore, on this occasion, didn’t have the chance to fulfil my perennial hope of deftly trapping an errant pass in front of Marcelo prompting him to conclude that ‘he may be in his late forties, but he could still do a job’.
As our first home fixture is now only a matter of weeks away, my loan spell to the YEP has come to an end.
Surprisingly, there has been no offer for a permanent transfer.
Supporters can still get their week fix of epeolatry as my programme notes will return to their natural home and will be delivered on the morning of matches to all Season Ticket Holders who select to convert their Season Ticket refunds into a bundle of benefits which will include; live streams of games, retail credits and the chance to have your likeness in a seat at the stadium for the remaining fixtures.
Whilst Elland Road will be a strange place for our last five games, we want the players to know that it will still be filled by 35,000 of the world’s best supporters who will all be there in spirit.