Brentford fans get first taste of new stadium as spectators return to football

Brentford fans were able to sample life inside their new stadium for the first time on Saturday when Blackburn visited in the Sky Bet Championship as the limited return of crowds to stadiums continued.

The Bees bid farewell to an empty Griffin Park with a 3-1 win over Swansea on July 29, with the coronavirus pandemic ensuring matches were still only able to be played behind closed doors at that point.

A month later and the Brentford Community Stadium was officially opened, but with London placed in tier two by the Government when lockdown ended on Wednesday, it meant 2,000 spectators were able to be welcomed back into grounds in the capital.

For Brentford supporters, Saturday’s 2-2 draw ensured they were able to watch their team live for the first time since a 5-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday on March 7, but more importantly they were finally able to take in their new 17,250-seater venue in person.

Earlier in the day, Reading were able to welcome fans back to a Championship fixture for the lunchtime visit of Nottingham Forest.

It was the first time in nine months spectators were allowed into a second division match and the support of the home fans at the Madejski Stadium helped the Royals clinch a 2-0 win.

Reading’s Lucas Joao celebrates scoring in front of the limited amount of spectators in attendance at the Madejski Stadium for the clash with Nottingham Forest
Reading’s Lucas Joao celebrates scoring in front of the limited amount of spectators in attendance at the Madejski Stadium for the clash with Nottingham Forest (Steve Parsons/PA)

Millwall hosted supporters again for the visit of Derby, but they appeared to boo as players from both sides took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Footage seen on social media showed booing being heard after referee Darren England blew his whistle at the Den in order for the players to take a knee. The PA news agency have approached Millwall for a comment.

Lower down the football pyramid, Harrogate were able to play a Football League match in front of a home crowd for the first time.

📸 | 𝐅𝐚𝐧𝐬. 𝐀𝐫𝐞. 𝐁𝐚𝐜𝐤.

Watch Live 🖥 https://t.co/N36qq28xrB#ProudToBeTownpic.twitter.com/OdRAmThgNV

— Harrogate Town AFC (@HarrogateTown) December 5, 2020

Simon Weaver’s team secured promotion to League Two in August after coming through the National League play-offs where games were played behind closed doors, and they were forced to start this campaign with no spectators in attendance.

That finally changed on Saturday when a crowd of 500 were welcomed into the EnviroVent Stadium for the clash with Forest Green, which ended 1-0 to the visitors.

In the Premier League, there were no fans at Burnley’s match with Everton or Manchester City’s home fixture with Fulham due to Lancashire and Greater Manchester being placed in tier three of the Government’s tier system.

West Ham will be the first top-flight club to host supporters again in a league encounter when they entertain Manchester United in a 5.30pm kick-off at the London Stadium.

West Ham fans have their temperature taken as they arrive at the London Stadium for the match with Manchester United
West Ham fans have their temperature taken as they arrive at the London Stadium for the match with Manchester United (Adam Davy/PA)

The last Premier League match to be played in front of a crowd was on March 9, when 32,125 spectators witnessed Leicester beat Aston Villa 4-0 at the King Power Stadium.

While Arsenal were able to host supporters for Thursday’s Europa League tie with Molde, it is West Ham who will have fans back in for the first time in a Premier League match.

Later on Saturday, Chelsea will also welcome back spectators when Leeds visit Stamford Bridge for an 8pm kick-off.

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