Silkmen TV caught up with Patrick Birch for our latest monthly update on Monday, with the latest on our preparations for the upcoming campaign on the agenda.
With COVID-19 regulations influencing every aspect of our preparations, Patrick outlined how the Club plans to comply with the latest government guidelines ahead of the new season.
Every aspect of preparation, from the players' training routine to the matchday experience, has been meticulously scrutinised to ensure the safety of everyone involved with the Football Club.
“We have done an assessment of the training ground and have got rules in place in terms of making their own way to the ground, in terms of turning up in their kit – they won’t be able to shower in the facility and will have to go home to wash their own kit.
“So, it is all very prescribed what you can and can’t do. Initially they will have to train in small groups and then that will turn into full group training.
“We have set out all that and have done a risk assessment on that.”
In terms of measures at the Moss Rose, Patrick explained how the Club are going to every length to ensure the safety of players and officials once football returns.
“We have also been looking at the ground and playing behind closed doors, and there are strict measures in place to make sure where the players go, there won’t be other people in that area who could potentially be passing on the virus - so we have thought about things like that.
“Places like the dressing rooms, the current home and away dressing room will be there for one team because they will need that bit more space, which means we are having to bring into play the dressing rooms we had 20 years ago; and we will bring them back for the other team.
“So, we will be walking out from two different parts of the ground for the actual matches themselves.
“We have gone through the whole process and worked out how it can be done in a COVID compliant way.”
With recent test events at stadiums nationwide, the Club have also planned to welcome fans back to the Moss once government regulations allow.
“The further bit we will then be planning for is when we have got fans coming back into the ground.
“We have been getting some good assistance, initially from the Football League and also from representatives the National League.
“They have been looking at two clubs in particular at Cambridge and Charlton and they have worked out how to work out a crowd capacity.
“We have got a model of the ground with all its floor areas starting at the turnstiles, moving onto the concourses and then you think about the area of the seats and the terraces.”
Patrick confirmed that in order to comply with any new guidelines, the Moss Rose will be required to run at a reduced capacity for the foreseeable future.
As would be the case for any sporting event, clear safety measures will be in place to provide the best possible fan experience for those in the stadium.
“On the back of that you calculate, in a COVID world, where you need the social distancing, how many people you can get in the ground.
“We can currently get 1,100 – 1,200 in the ground which currently has a capacity of 5,500. I think it is important to say to fans that we will be going out of our way to get this right.
“There will be one-way systems around the ground explaining how you move around, so we want it to be safe.”
“With things like the seating, if you are in a bubble you can make that clear when you book your tickets and you can sit together, but for others not in a bubble there has to be spaces between individuals and we will be managing that as we are giving out the tickets.”
Whilst the Club will look to accommodate those who want to sit in a particular seat or area of the ground where possible, Patrick admitted that flexibility in this regard will be necessary in some instances.
“I am afraid I think we are going to have to be maybe a little flexible on precisely where we sit, what I am really keen to do is make sure people get a really good fan experience.
“For example, we are currently looking at the McIlroy and Keith’s bar and making sure we get the most out of that to make sure we can get people in there.
“In terms of where people are sitting, where we can, we will make arrangements, and I suspect it might be possible with some of the season ticket holders and people who come regularly to do that, because they have fixed positions for every game; but then the people coming to individual matches, there will have to be some serious flexibility really about where these people sit from one game to the next.”
With the COVID-19 regulations evolving on a regular basis, Patrick confessed that it is likely these measures will be in place for the duration of the 2020/21 campaign.
“I think the arrangements we are putting in place now are going to be there for the whole of next season.
“I am pretty sure that will be the case, and there is a risk of it running into the season after, but we will be giving people the best possible experience to those 1,100 people.
"We will be looking to ensure that there is good support for those people to the extent that I don’t think it was good enough last season.
“We want to put some of those issues right.”