In the online programme for the game against Sunderland, Oxford United Chairman Sumrith 'Tiger' Thanakarnjanasuth writes the following notes:
It is slightly strange to have our opening home league match as the fourth game of the season, but I am excited to welcome everyone to today’s game against Sunderland. Usually this would be a massive afternoon with a full house and a fantastic atmosphere. Sunderland are a wonderful football club and a team we know will be in contention again this year, but instead of a roaring crowd we will have empty stands, and all be watching on iFollow.
There was a possibility that we could have used this game to pilot a return for a limited number of fans and there was a huge temptation to make that happen. I think a pilot game would probably lose money because of the costs of stewarding and putting protocols in place but that is not the point at all. Even having a thousand people here would have been a massive statement of intent and see us one step closer to a full return.
However, we had to be practical and in the end we decided to run the pilot game against Crewe in two weeks’ time. That was purely down to timescales and our one simple aim: when fans do return then we have to know it is safe and that the timing is absolutely right for everyone concerned. Today was just a few days too early and so we prefer to check, double check, and make sure we can provide a truly safe place to enjoy the game again.
I am sure that frustrated many of you; trust me, it frustrates me just as much because for six months now all I have wanted to do is watch Oxford United play football in person! I think we all missed being at an excellent cup game on Tuesday and it is my belief that with a loud home crowd we would probably have had enough to beat Watford. We definitely matched a very strong Championship side and put in a classy performance against them, and we should be very proud of our team for doing that despite losing on penalties in the end.
I speak with Karl a lot and the games so far have only really confirmed what he has been saying in terms of recruitment. There have been injuries which need cover, but we know the positions we need to bring players in for and that will still happen, despite a huge revenue loss. We will continue to support Karl in all that he does which brings me back to my first point.
The next home game will, I hope, see fans back with us, and if all goes well, one or two new faces. The season is up and running and I hope soon we can be reunited.
You can read the full programme online at www.matchdayfix.com/oufc