More than 2,000 Shropshire football fans back petition for stadium return

More than 2,000 football fans from across Shropshire put their names to a petition calling for stadiums to be reopened to spectators.

Shrewsbury Town supporters sitting in the stand.
Shrewsbury Town supporters sitting in the stand.

They were among almost 25,000 others from across the West Midlands who have helped to force a Parliamentary debate to take place on the issue in the coming weeks.

Figures show that fans in all constituencies have so far signed a national petition including 602 in Shrewsbury and Atcham, 279 in North Shropshire, 215 in Ludlow, 424 in Telford and 394 in The Wrekin.

The petition on Parliament’s website has gathered 197,000 signatures already, meaning MPs in Westminster will debate the matter on November 9.

Ashley Greenwood, who set up the petition, said that football was a "powerful tool" that brought a range of economic and social benefits.

"Football can be associated with passion, emotion, excitement and dedication across the community.

"I ask for the support of this petition as I fear that smaller clubs in particular will go out of business leading to a devastating effect on people," Mr Greenwood added.

Supporters outside the Montgomery Waters Meadow

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has admitted there was a growing sense of frustration at the ban on live crowds at sporting events, but insisted there could be no change until the spread of coronavirus was curbed.

He told a recent meeting of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee that he wanted desperately wanted to have socially-distanced spectators in grounds from October 1.

Mr Dowden said: "But there is very clear evidence from the scientific community that at this stage of the disease, with rapidly rising infections, we should be imposing restrictions – which we are – not further easements.

“We are doing things that are positively hateful, but the reason we are doing it is to secure public safety.”

He said the emergence of a vaccine, 'on day' testing, or further control of the virus could all help enable fans to return to sporting events.

The Premier League has said that English football loses £100 million every month without spectators, while the English Football League(EFL) said it lost £50m in revenue in 2019-20 and stands to lose a further £200m if fans do not return in 2020-21.

Last month for the first time since lockdown, 1,000 Shrewsbury Town season ticket holders were allowed in as part of a pilot scheme which has since been suspended by the Government. The team beat Northampton 2-1.

Across the UK almost 200,000 fans have backed the idea of getting inside arenas once more.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said: "We understand that Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has to do things for different sectors but ultimately there’s an inconsistency there, that you can go to an indoor venue, enjoy an evening out.

“We think that’s a really positive thing, the big question is why can’t that be, in the near future, sports venues as well?”

Mr Masters wrote an open letter to fans earlier this month alongside the heads of the EFL and the FA backing the petition.

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