Week Ahead: Football fans return in force and Duchess of York publishes Mills & Boon novel

Capacity crowds return to football grounds while the Duchess of York releases a Mills & Boon novel partly based on her own life. Chris Burn looks into the Week Ahead.

Fans outside of the ground before the final Premier League match at Bramall Lane, Sheffield in May. Full stadiums are returning this weekend for the new Championship season. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

THE BIG KICK-OFF

With the Euros dominating attention this summer, it may feel as though football has barely been away - but the start of the new season in the lower leagues and the traditional curtain-raising Community Shield game at Wembley this weekend will be particularly special for supporters as capacity crowds return to grounds for the first time since the pandemic began.

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On Saturday, last year’s Premier League champions Manchester City will take on FA Cup holders Leicester City in front of a maximum capacity 90,000 crowd at Wembley while the Championship season will begin on Friday night with Bournemouth taking on West Brom.

Huddersfield Town will start their season away to crisis-hit Derby on Saturday, Barnsley take on Cardiff, Middlesbrough play Fulham and newly-relegated Sheffield United will be back in front of a home crowd against Birmingham.

While clubs and supporters will be delighted to see full stands again, there are question marks over the coming months with the Government potentially making vaccine passports for events with more than 20,000 attendees mandatory from October.

It is unclear to what extent what role football matches have in spreading Covid-19.

There were concerns, however, around fans travelling to London during Euro 2020 after Public Health Scotland figures showed there were nearly 1,300 Covid-19 cases linked to fans at events as Scotland faced England in the group stages. That included 397 people who attended the clash in Wembley on June 18.

NATIONS MAKE COVID CALLS

With the British nations all taking different approaches to coronavirus restrictions, big decisions loom in Scotland and Wales this week.

On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon will set out the next steps in Scotland’s moves out of Covid-19 restrictions in a virtual meeting of the Scottish Parliament.

She has already said she is “optimistic” on further easing restrictions from August 9 thanks to a recent fall in both case numbers and Covid patients in hospital.

Meanwhile on Saturday it is hoped that Wales will move to coronavirus alert Level 0. Under alert Level 0 all premises would be able to open and most – but not all – restrictions will be removed and replaced with the ongoing requirement for all organisations and businesses to carry out Covid risk assessments. There will also be no legal limit on the number of people who can meet others indoors, including in private homes.

The wearing of face masks will remain compulsory on public transport and in most indoor settings.

DUCHESS DELIVERS

A new Mills & Boon novel called Her Heart For A Compass written by none other than Sarah, Duchess of York, is being published on Tuesday.

The Duke of York’s ex-wife has previously admitted she “drew on many parallels” from her own life for the romantic fiction. The book follows a fictional account of the life and loves of the duchess’s great-great-aunt Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott who is banished from polite society after fleeing an arranged marriage.

The duchess wrote the book with author Marguerite Kaye and said she spent 18 months on the project with her “lovely friend”. Kaye has written more than 50 novels for Mills & Boon set across the ages and her books and novellas have sold more than 1.5 million copies in over 20 countries.

Mills & Boon describes the work as an “immersive historical saga” that “sweeps the reader from the drawing rooms of Victoria’s court and the grand country houses of Scotland and Ireland, to the slums of London and the mercantile bustle of 1870s New York”.

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