Epidemiologist backs call from Aberdeen to have 2000 supporters back for festive football fixtures

Aberdeen now have the backing of a leading academic in the club’s call for crowd test events to be held at Pittodrie and the return of football fans to Scottish grounds.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack has called for the Dons to be allowed crowds next month. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)
Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack has called for the Dons to be allowed crowds next month. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

The Dons want matches to be played with crowds of 2,000 in Tier 2 areas – including Aberdeenshire and City – but will request half that number for the visit of Ross County next month, with the intention of 1,000 more fans allowed for games on Boxing Day and January 2.

Chairman Dave Cormack revealed the plan will COST the Dons more money, rather than recoup income through the gate receipts, but he insists the plan would be worth it for the community outreach benefits.

The plan has the backing of epidemiologist Professor Gary Macfarlane, the University of Aberdeen’s Dean for Interdisciplinary Research and Research Impact and NHS Grampian honorary consultant in Public Health who has reviewed the clubs plans and protocols, described as “impressively robust”.

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He added: “They fully take account of the measures which have been recommended by the Scottish Government to control the spread of the virus in such settings.” It is my view that the highly-regulated, outdoor environment at Pittodrie, tested with just over 2,000 fans socially distanced at two metres, would ensure that the risk to individuals is extremely low.”

Aberdeen, and chairman Cormack, have been vocal in their calls for fans to be allowed back to stadia – and last week the club revealed the impact no gate receipts was having on club finances.

The plan for Pittodrie to operate at five percent capacity and house a socially distant restricted attendance would run at a loss, but the chairman believes the benefits are worth the hit. Cormack tweeted: “Costs more to open Pittodrie for limited crowds but community outreach means everything to us. We’ve spoken with 16,000 fans in last six months. Many struggle with anxiety, loneliness and depression. Allowing fans to return safely will provide much-needed relief, joy and hope.”

Aberdeen held one test event in September but the club now wants 1,000 fans in for the Ross County match on December 12 – the day after the Scottish Government’s restriction tier review – and then 2,000 to attend the festive fixtures with St Johnstone and Dundee United.

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Pittodrie's stands have been empty but for a test event in September (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Tier 1 regions including Highland area clubs Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Ross County are already permitted small crowds to games since changes made earlier this month.

Rob Wicks, AFC’s commercial director said: “The knock-on impact into next season could be catastrophic financially for the club and community projects if we cannot give our fans some glimmer of hope that they will be back watching games at Pittodrie soon.

“We would like to think that our plan for a modest, incremental increase in the number of fans able to attend matches would be approved by the authorities. With only three limited, but successful, Premiership trials with 300 fans to date, there’s a clear need and a desire among clubs to test their protocols and procedures with higher numbers, which, in the case of Pittodrie, is supported by the detailed independent review by Professor Macfarlane.

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“While it does cost more to open Pittodrie for limited crowds, versus closed doors, we want to offer fans some hope of getting back to football.”

Matches have been streamed this season with fans unable to attend (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

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