Sheffield United manager questions why Premier League clubs weren't asked to vote on the return of fans to some stadiums, as his club loses out again
Given the wealth of evidence that crowds can help influence the outcome of Premier League games, and the fact that only a small handful of clubs will reap the benefit of the government’s decision to relax the ban on fans attending matches during the Covid-19 pandemic, Chris Wilder has questioned why representatives of all 20 top-flight teams were not invited to vote on whether restrictions should have remained in place until everyone in the competition is able to invite fans back into their grounds.
With South Yorkshire still subject to the most draconian measures under England’s new three tier system, Sheffield United must continue to play their home fixtures behind closed doors while forthcoming opponents such as Southampton and Brighton and Hove Albion will be able to open their gates when Wilder’s men visit next month.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s trip to West Bromwich Albion, the United manager insisted “no one is more desperate to get people back inside the grounds than me”. But, as his side attempts to secure its first win of the new campaign, Wilder told The Star the “sporting integrity” issues the situation raises meant opinion throughout the division should have been canvassed before a final ruling was made.
Reminding how matters such as the number of substitutes permitted have all been put to a vote, he said: “I’m not so sure (if United protested) but we vote on everything else. The Premier League is decided by all of us. It’s decided by the members. So whatever decision gets made, we have to accept it. I would have thought the same applied here. But that’s not the case. If we were in tier two, we’d want supporters back. I’m not sure why there hasn’t been a vote on it. It can’t be right that some can have them back and some can’t.”
With his side travelling to The Hawthorns at the foot of the table after taking only a point from their opening nine outings of the new campaign, Wilder, whose squad finished ninth in last term, has made no secret of the fact that the losing the backing of their supporters has been a factor behind United’s disappointing results of late.
With injuries also proving costly, as United attempt to establish themselves at the highest level only three years after being promoted from League One, Wilder’s men have now been presented with another handicap to overcome in the battle for survival. Leeds’ Marcelo Bielsa and Steve Bruce of Newcastle have also spoken out about the imbalance in recent days.
“You want supporters back, so just get on with it, that’s what people will be saying,” he admitted. “I want them back more than you could ever know. I know what effect they’ve had on me personally and our football club.
“For me, it’s everybody or nobody. There’s good news about vaccines and five minute tests, so I’m sure we don’t need to wait too long. I’m sure we could get people back soon, right across the board.”