An interview with the Richmond Kickers’ on COVID-19 & fans in City Stadium

The Richmond Kickers are scheduled to host their first match of the 2020 USL League One season this Saturday. A look at potential hurdles on gameday and going forward.

It was supposed to be March 28th against Forward Madison. Instead, the USL League One season, like so many sports leagues and parts of life, was brought to a dramatic halt. Now four months later, the Richmond Kickers are nearly ready to begin the club’s second season in League One and return to City Stadium for the first time since last fall.

The Richmond Kickers opened the 2020 season last Saturday as they traveled to South Carolina to take on Greenville Triumph SC, after their initial match against South Georgia Tormenta FC was postponed.

Last Wednesday the club released its COVID-19 readiness plan for City Stadium. Face coverings will be required, fans will be limited to 1,000, per state guidance, social distancing markers will be throughout the stadium, and club employees will be monitoring compliance. Following those guidelines, we reached out to Richmond Kickers:

1) Is the club securing a certain percentage of the 1k for ‘Season members, suite holders, and flex pack holders’, and then the remainder goes on a first come first serve basis to the general public?

Rob Ukrop (Club Chairman): We are in communication with our Season Membership holders, Sponsors, and flex pack holders to allow them the first opportunity to attend games.

2) How many season tickets were sold for this year? Or asked another way how many spots are held based on those commitments (season ticket holders, suites, etc.) in case the limit is lower from 1,000?

[No comment from the club.]

3) The Richmond Kickers protocols mention ’75 person capacity per section’, will spacing be enforced within sections or just capped there but fans can be within 6 feet of each other?

Ukrop: We expect fans to respect the protocols we have in place, but we will also utilize our RMC event staff in each section to help remind folks of these protocols.

4) The protocols also mention that fans will get a warning and then the second violation leaves to removal. After seeing some USL Championship clubs not handle this well in the opening weekends (based on ESPN+ coverage & still shots of the crowd), do you expect the club to comment on how that overall process goes for home games, including the number of people who were removed?

Ukrop: We anticipate our RVA community will honor the protocols we have established to keep their fellow fans safe.

5) Is there a plan to release the testing results of the club each week (general numbers not names)?

Note: The Richmond Kickers confirmed that there are no current plans to release testing results unless there is a postponement of a match.

6) VA has over 80k cases, which would place them as the 27th highest in the world if it was its own country – Would USL be okay with Richmond having no fans, if the club decided that, even if the state would allow them in?

[Note: The questions were sent on 7/22, as of writing Virginia has over 88k cases.]

Ukrop: We are following the Commonwealth of Virginia guidelines for fans while also working with the USL to create a safe and healthy environment for those who choose to participate in the game-day experience.

7) Cases are on the rise in VA, closing in on the peak which was late May/early June. Is there a point where the Kickers change their numbers proactivity or will it only be based on state limits?

Ukrop: We will continue to follow the Commonwealth of Virginia phased guidelines for events.

After playing in front of an empty stadium in South Carolina against Greenville, and then 400 fans in Georgia, the Kickers will most likely be looking up into City Stadium with 1,000 spectators. A number that might be short-lived, with cases surging again in Virginia, the state very well could enter Stage 2 of the lockdown protocols again soon. After going through many hurdles to get to Saturday, match day will offer the first test of many as the club and league attempt to put together a season this season.

Will 1k fans want to attend on Saturday and be among a crowd that large? How will the new protocols work out? There are still more questions than answers when trying to project how the season will pan out, but we can be sure that the Richmond Kickers will be excited to show off their new stadium renovations and hoping to secure three points after picking up just one (from six) as they opened on the road this past week.

Nathan Reynolds

Writer covering the Richmond Kickers in USL League One. Experience as a WordPress developer, editor, podcaster, and writer for European and US soccer leagues.