Derry City fans set to return to Brandywell for pilot event against Bohemians
DERRY CITY Football Club Chief Executive Sean Barrett believes there is finally ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ as the Brandywell outfit got the green light to welcome back a limited number of supporters for Friday night’s visit of Bohemians.
A test event for the return of supporters will bring to an end a 16 months Covid lockout from the Lone Moor Road venue and while the club has yet to receive official confirmation of the number of fans permitted through the turnstiles, it’s understood to be significantly below the 500 agreed by the Northern Ireland Executive last month.
Brandywell club officials who attended a meeting with Derry City and Strabane District Council, the PSNI and members from the Public Health Authority last night, were frustrated with the low numbers being suggested, however, Mr Barrett insists the decision was ‘totally out of our control’.
“They didn’t give us a number yet but it won’t be anywhere near 500,” confirmed Mr Barrett. “But the good news is that there WILL be fans at the match on Friday night subject to the cases not rising dramatically over the next couple of days.
“You have to do a test event,” he explained. “That’s the rationale behind why the numbers are so low. They (Council) will give us numbers in the next couple of days. There won’t be many as it’s a test event. The maximum it can be is 500 but it won’t be anywhere near that.
“We’re totally at the behest of the Derry City and Strabane District Council. It’s totally out of our control. We fought our corner to get as many fans in as possible. They were understandably very cautious given the situation we’re in and the health and safety issues. Whatever they tell us to do we have to do,” he stressed.
Bray Wanderers and Sligo Rovers will be allowed to have 100 spectators attend their respective home fixtures this weekend, Cork City is permitted 500 fans while Shamrock Rovers will welcome 1,000 fans to their next two home games at Tallaght as part of the pilot test event for spectators returning to sport in Ireland.
Mr Barrett expects the Brandywell attendance to be increased for the visit of Sligo Rovers on Monday, June 21st should everything go to plan and should Covid cases continue to go in the right direction over the next couple of weeks.
Friday’s trial run will be used to evaluate and review progress towards increasing spectator capacity. Ultimately Mr Barrett is delighted that some club members will get the chance to return to the terraces at long last.
“It’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he added. “People are getting into the ground. For our members there’s now hope they can get to a match on Friday so that’s something at least. I went all guns blazing at the meeting to fight our corner,” he admitted.
“However, there’s nothing more you can do. People will be disappointed bu it’s totally out of our control. I’ve no doubt if we get through this Friday and Covid keeps going the way it’s going we will definitely have a lot more fans at the next game.”
Those fans who purchased the club’s tiered membership scheme at the start of the season will be entered into a lotto draw once the official number of spectators allowed into the ground is confirmed in the coming days.
“It’s just going to be decided by a ballot for club members,” confirmed Mr Barrett. “That’s all we can do but they haven’t confirmed the numbers yet. We hope to find out in the next couple of days.”