NNL side Vandrezzer FC has called on the Federal Government to allow fans back into football stadiums following the opening up of most sectors of the economy.
Restrictions on contact sports were lifted last October allowing the return of competitive football, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 has, however, kept a lid on fans getting back in to watch their teams in the stadiums.
Addressing the PTF in an open letter published on the club’s website, the VFC management drew attention to the fact that restrictions have already been loosened for many other activities involving the massing of people and said a number of safety measures can be implemented to ensure football fans can watch their teams with very minimal risk to public health.
The letter pointed to the example of clubs in Europe allowing a limited number of fans into stadiums and argued that the vaccination of large swathes of the Nigerian public means massed gatherings are not as risky as they were at the height of the pandemic.
“Vandrezzer Football Club wishes to appreciate the Presidential Task Force, Ministry of Sports and Nigeria Football Federation for a successful return of league football in Nigeria under strict rules in compliance with the COVID-19 prevention regulations.
“While the health of the nation remains a top priority, we know however that the fans are the soul of football and without them, we are lacking a fundamental part of the sport. Football is not the same without fans, every player and coach misses the direct connection fans provide and the influence the (well behaved) supporters have on our games.
“Parts of Africa, the United Kingdom and other European countries that are worse hit by the COVID-19 pandemic have managed to return supporters to stadiums. This is a big win for football and sports which unites communities, increases employment for our youths, provides livelihoods, boosts businesses, and the national economy.
“The fact that schools, churches/mosques, major arts and social events have allowed people to gather, observing social and physical distancing and with all safety protocols observed, is a step forward. Football should now be allowed to do the same but in highly regulated and supervised situations.
“In the light of the above, we request the Federal Government of Nigeria in collaboration with the NFF and the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 to strongly consider the possibility of letting fans back into the stadiums to help clubs generate revenue and add colour to our football. Just as in other climes, we can start with a certain number of fans, then a gradual increase.
“Football clubs can collaborate with epidemiologists, scientists, and medical professionals in fields such as public health, clinical processes, and occupational hygiene to ensure stadiums are COVID-safe by incorporating best-practice screening and hygiene measures to protect the safety of fans and the broader public, as well as accelerate Government’s sporting goals.
“Clubs would need to be proactive in this area and should be open to adopting measures both in and out of the stadium that will alleviate any concerns about supporter safety.
“Stadium environments can be tweaked and meticulously regulated. Screening fans before they enter the stadium, implementing temperature checks, mandating masks to be worn, one-way systems, and giving a code of conduct for all those attending a matchday are all possible measures. This will be supplemented by deep-cleaning methods to help lower the likelihood of virus transmission even further.
“Furthermore, with the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, we believe the risk of contracting the virus in our stadia would be reduced.
“We all understand why prudence is required, and we want the government to be consistent in their policies so that sport is treated as fairly as other activities that are already permitted to welcome spectators.
“We want to thank the Federal government, NCDC and Lagos State government in particular for their pivotal roles in fighting the scourge in Nigeria, as we look forward to the consideration of allowing fans back into our stadia.”