'We won't attend any matches until all the fans are allowed back in'
The vice-chairman of Hemel Hempstead Town and the town’s MP have vowed to not attend any further matches until fans are allowed back in.
Both Kerry Underwood and Sir Mike Penning, the MP for Hemel Hempstead, have previously spoken out about the decision to not allow fans in to watch National League matches while the former had his say about it during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday.
Now they have decided to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with supporters as the wait for their return to stadiums continues in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under the current national lockdown, ‘elite’ football, which includes the National League South, is continuing while ‘non-elite’ football has been paused although fans had been allowed in at that level before the lockdown began.
In a joint-statement from the duo, they said: “We have discussed matters together and decided that neither of us will attend any Hemel Hempstead Town Football matches until all the fans are allowed back in.
“We fully understand that certain officials of Hemel Hempstead Town Football Club must attend in order for the match to run smoothly and the safety procedures relating to Covid-19 to be followed.
“But neither of us is in that category and we do not think that we should attend when the loyal and long standing supporters of Hemel Hempstead Town are excluded.
“We both continue to do everything that we can off the pitch and behind the scenes to support the club and, in particular, both of us are delighted with the appointment of Lee Bircham as manager and we are glad the results are beginning to come through for Lee and the new squad that he has shaped.”
Both men opposed the current national lockdown with Penning voting against it in parliament.
He added: “My view is that as soon as the national lockdown is ended then fans should be allowed in at National League level, with the appropriate Covid-19 protection measures in place and it makes no sense for the decision as to whether or not fans are allowed in to be based on the league the team is in, rather than the safety measures in place and the capacity etc.”
And Underwood added: “I realise that in the spring immediate decisions had to be made and there would be some inconsistencies.
“We have now had six months to consider matters and it makes no sense that a ground like Vauxhall Road, which has a large capacity and the ability to have everyone complying with the regulations, should not be allowed to have fans in whereas much smaller grounds, without the same ability to have separate entrances and exits etc. are allowed fans in.
“It makes no sense at all that you cannot stand out in the open air and watch a match, but, once the lockdown is lifted, you can watch it a few yards away in a bar.”