Exclusive: Football League clubs concerned 'pingdemic' could cause steward shortage

·2 min read
Exclusive: Football League clubs concerned 'pingdemic' could cause steward shortage - Simon Cooper
Exclusive: Football League clubs concerned 'pingdemic' could cause steward shortage - Simon Cooper

Clubs across the Football League are concerned that the so-called “pingdemic” could lead to a significant shortage of stewards as they prepare to welcome back crowds for this weekend’s big re-opening.

The Championship season kicks off on Friday night when Bournemouth host West Bromwich Albion and the League One and Two campaigns commence the next day.

EFL clubs will welcome fans through their doors en masse for the first time since March last year, when football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent matches had to be played behind closed doors.

But there are fears that clubs could be left facing potentially disruptive steward shortages amid the threat of people being pinged by the NHS Covid-19 app and told to stay at home.

One senior source told Telegraph Sport: “I think it will be mixed and hopefully clubs will be able to address it. We’ll know on Saturday. There doesn’t appear to be panic but it’s a concern.”

Last week, the app sent a record 689,313 alerts and many businesses have already complained that they were struggling to operate because so many staff were being asked to isolate.

The app has since been updated so that fewer people will be asked to self-isolate in a bid to end the disruption.

Under new programming, only those who have been in contact with an asymptomatic case in the past 48 hours will be pinged. Previously, the app traced contacts back five days for both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections.

From August 16, fully vaccinated people will no longer have to self-isolate if a contact tests positive for Covid so the worries around stewarding numbers may prove to be short-lived but the next week could present problems.

There are also 33 EFL Cup fixtures due to take place next Tuesday and Wednesday and another full programme of league fixtures the following weekend. Premier League clubs could face similar challenges with their season kicking off that weekend.

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