When Jane Utley arrives in Oakwell on Monday evening, she will be one of the 4,500 lucky Tykes. Barnsley fans will watch their team play their most important game in a decade with Swansea, the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals. As with all the other fans on the ground, it will be his first match in 14 months.
“I think by Tuesday we will have lost our voice,” he says. “I think people will try to make it loud. I'm sure anyone who normally sits there will want to join in and shout out more because this is going to be special, hasn't been 14 months. ”
Utley says he will watch Barnsley no more than 100 times a season. pre-pandemic times. Men's team at home and away, under - 23, under - 18 p. “ I collect signatures too, but obviously it all ended with Covid,” he says.
Barnsley had a tumultuous season in English minor league football, playing dynamic and attractive football with a team full of young players. Fans did not get to see them once. There was talk of a driver's match last fall, "then Boris put us in third place," says Utley. Now, fans of the government's phased reopening in step three are back, and it's just in time, at least in Barnsley's case.
In the sports calendar, a number of sports have taken the opportunity to let fans in again. Barnsley will start at 20:00 at Oakwell, with the other playoff halves between Bournemouth and Brentford scheduled before them at six. Horse racing will take place in the afternoon at Redcar and Carlisle, and in the evening at Leicester and Windsor. In rugby union Premiership leaders Bristol played Gloucester while Newcastle played Northampton.
Super League moved five of its six games from weekend to Monday night to welcome fans. When fans of the elite sport had a temporary and short-lived return last fall, much of the north of England was overlooked and Rugby league had four scheduled pilot matches canceled at the end of September with one week's notice.
"The fact that the fans could not participate in the fixture left a huge gap," the Super League said in a statement ahead of Monday's games. “For everyone involved in the game – managers, match officials, fans, and especially players fueled by passion – Monday night will be a step back to normalcy and bigger crowds to come as well as a reminder of what we missed. ”
The prospect of larger, capacity crowds is consistent across all sports. From Rugby league to the Premier League, the financial viability of all elite sports is questioned before fans are fully backed out. Government support and commercial loans have allowed clubs and competitions to get to this point, but there is a clear desperation for everything to return to normal in the summer.
Will it ever happen? It will still be seen, as it was before the pandemic. Utley admits that he doesn't talk to many people about buying tickets to Barnsley's game, not wanting to be in the game. Those she knows admit they can't go in together given each of their own timelines. Redfearn bar run by supporters will be closed.
“No, it won't be the same,” he says. “We will watch the match live, but there are one-way systems with stickers, there is no food or drink because we cannot sit at the tables. They said they would clean the toilets while watching the match so they would be ready for halftime and would be cleaned again in the second half. ”
But it will be a strange experience, a match nonetheless. “I'm excited to be able to watch it live and just jump up and down the house and ask my mom to see what's going on,” Utley says. It will be more spontaneous. [to the play-off final] Going over will be the icing on the cake but we won't be crossing too many bridges, we get to the game first. ”