Paul Barber, the chief executive of Brighton & Hove Albion, has welcomed the chance for the Amex Stadium to host the first trial event match of 2020/21, with 2,500 supporters invited to attend Saturday's friendly with Chelsea.
Brighton have been given approval by the UK Government for a pilot event that will allow fans chosen from the club's loyalty programme to attend the stadium for the first time since the visit of Crystal Palace on 29 February.
The COVID-19 pandemic then suspended the 2019/20 season, which was resumed in July with matches played behind closed doors.
"It’s a big opportunity to demonstrate to the government and public that we can stage an event safely," Barber told the club's official website. "It is the first small step to a return to normal.
"It's about building confidence again for supporters"
"Inevitably, because it's a pilot, we will be testing how the procedures we are putting in place have worked and if they don't, why and what we need to do better.
"The DCMS [Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport] and the Premier League have been incredibly supportive throughout this process.
"Like ourselves, and every club in the football pyramid, they want us to be back to normal as soon as we can and we’re taking the first steps towards that on Saturday.
“We want to strike that balance between ensuring we comply to the guidelines around things like social-distancing and making it an enjoyable football experience."
As part of the test, supporters will have random temperature checks and will be required to wear masks on entry to the stadium but not at their seats, which will be socially distanced.
To adhere with government guidelines, new measures have been put in place, such as the installation of sanitising stations across the stadium, while all payments will be cashless.
"In many ways it's about building confidence and trust again for supporters, because this will be a different match day to the one they are used to because safety and minimising risk are obviously very important," Barber added.
"Saturday will be a small crowd but it’s an important psychological step and hopefully it will be a success and other clubs can pick up the mantle."
Several significant changes will be made to fulfil this test event, in line with government guidelines:
- Cleaning operations and sanitisation has been scaled up significantly.
- Sanitising stations will be available across the stadium, on entry to all turnstiles, the store, near catering outlets and within toilets.
- In line with the UK Government's track and trace, the named owner of the ticket must attend the match, with the transfer of tickets strictly forbidden.
- Named photographic ID must be shown on entry and must match the name on the ticket. Entry will not be permitted without your photo ID and match ticket being verified.
- The club will not issue tickets. These will be available to print at home, or by loading to your Google Pay/Apple Wallet.
- All payments in the stadium will be cashless, with contactless payment preferred.
- Face coverings must always be worn at the stadium on matchday, unless you are sat in a seat or while eating or drinking.
- Supporters must socially distance and sit only in the seat allocated to them. They cannot move seats at any time.
- Fans are discouraged from bringing bags to the stadium. For those requiring a bag, the maximum size permitted is A4.
- Random temperature checks will be in operation. Fans are asked to be prepared to comply with stewards' requests to check their temperatures before stadium entry.
- Any fans required to quarantine under government guidelines, or with symptoms of COVID-19, must not attend.