When Jane Utley arrives at Oakwell on Monday evening she will be one of the 4,500 lucky Tykes. Barnsley fans will watch his team play with Swansea in their most important match in the decade, the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-finals. As with all the other fans on the ground, it will be his first game in 14 months.
“I think we will have lost our voice on Tuesday,” he says. “I think people will try to make it noisy. I'm sure anyone who normally sits there will want to join in and shout more because that's going to be special, right 14 months not there. "
Utley says he will watch Barnsley a maximum of 100 times a season. pre-epidemic times. Men's team at home and away, under - 23 team, bottom - 18 p. “ I also collect signatures, but obviously it all ended with Covid, ”he says.
Barnsley had a stormy season in English football's second league, playing dynamic and engaging football with a team full of young players. Fans could not see them once. “Then Boris put us in third place,” says Utley, who was mentioned in a pilot match last fall. Now, fans of the government's phased re-opening in step three are back, and at least in Barnsley's case just in time.
On the sports calendar, a number of sports have taken the opportunity to let the fans in again. Barnsley will start at Oakwell at 20:00, and the other playoff halves between Bournemouth and Brentford were scheduled at six before them. Horse racing will take place in Redcar and Carlisle in the afternoon, and in Leicester and Windsor in the evening. In the rugby union Premiership leaders took Bristol Gloucester while Newcastle played Northampton.
The Super League moved five of its six matches 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 the Rugby league was canceled four scheduled pilot matches with a week's notice at the end of September.
The Super League said in a statement before the matches on Monday, "The failure of the fans to participate in the fixture left a big gap," he said. “For everyone involved - managers, match officials, fans, and especially passionate players - Monday night will be a reminder of what we missed, as well as a step back towards normality and larger crowds. "
The prospect of a larger, capacity crowd is consistent across all sports. The financial viability of all elite sports, from the Rugby league to the Premier League, is questioned before the fans return completely. 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 before the pandemic. Utley admits to many that Barnsley did not mention buying tickets to his game, he did not want to enter the game. The people he knows admit that they cannot go together when each is given their own timetable. Redfearn bar, run by the supporters, will be closed.
"No, it won't be the same," he says. “We will watch the game live, but there are one-way systems with stickers, no food and drink because we cannot sit at the tables. While watching the game, they said they would clean the toilets so they were ready for the half-time break and cleaned again in the second half. "
It's going to be a strange experience, but still a match. “I'm excited to be able to watch him live and just jump up and down the house and ask my mom to see what's going on,” says Utley. It will be more spontaneous. [to the play-off final] Passing over it will be the cream of the cake, but we won't cross too many bridges, we get to the match first. "