Barnsley fans preparing for Oakwell play-off return as Covid restrictions lifted

Barnsley fans will be amongst the first allowed back into English league football stadia since March 2020, and should get a strong indication by tomorrow if their team is playing for a Wembley final or a game elsewhere.

Barnsley's players could have just over 4,500 home fans back at Oakwell for the play-off semi-final second leg next Monday. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Leeds United and Sheffield United’s final two matches this season – one home, one away, in each case – will also be played in front of crowds.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the next stage of the Government’s “road map” will proceed as planned from Monday, allowing a limited number of home fans to attend the Championship play-offs that evening.

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Up to 4,528 will be allowed into Oakwell

FINALLY: Barnsley fans are set to return to Oakwell in time fo their team's Championship play-off semi-final second leg next Monday. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Barnsley do not yet know if their first leg semi-final against Swansea City will be the first or second played. There is also uncertainty over when and where the final, against either Brentford and Bournemouth, will be played.

The play-off finals are scheduled to take place on consecutive days on the Bank Holiday weekend, starting with the Championship showpiece on May 29, but there has been considerable lobbying to play the Champions League final that day in this country, rather than make Manchester City and Chelsea travel to Turkey.

Villa Park volunteered as a venue, but Uefa prefers the prestigious national stadium, due to hold this season’s European Championships semi-finals and finals.

English-based fans are prohibited from travelling to “red-listed” Turkey, although it is thought the Government is prepared to lift quarantine restrictions for players on their return.

Uefa and the Government are haggling over details with only 10,000 fans permitted at Wembley compared to 24,000 in Turkey, and European football’s governing body looking for sponsors and VIPs to be exempted from quarantine rules. Lisbon has therefore emerged as an alternative. Portugal is on the UK’s “green list”, allowing travel.

A decision is expected tomorrow.

The Football League are said to be open to changing the venue or date of their play-off finals to accommodate a Champions League final in England, although the former might be better logistically.

Wales is following a different “road map” but is today expected to announce the Liberty Stadium second leg as its first sporting pilot event for the return of fans.

Save for a few pilot matches and a brief pre-Christmas spell when restrictions eased in Tier 2, English league football has been behind closed doors since March 9, 2020, depriving clubs of extremely important income.

Leeds and Sheffield United’s home games against West Bromwich Albion and Burnley respectively on May 23 will be played in front of quarter-capacity crowds.