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EFL clubs will welcome up to 10,000 fans across the country this weekend as the League steps up its Covid-19 pilot programme.

League chiefs have agreed with Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that matches with up to 1,000 supporters will be staged at 10 venues across the three divisions.

1Football fans will finally return to grounds this weekend across the EFLCredit: Action Images

In the Championship, Luton’s game with Derby, Preston’s visit to Norwich and the clash between Middlesbrough and Bournemouth will see the turnstiles partially opened for the first time since March.

The League One games featuring Charlton against Doncaster, Blackpool versus Swindon, Northampton’s trip to Shrewsbury and Hull’s match with Crewe are on the approved list.

And in League Two, three games - at Forest Green, Carlisle and Morecambe - will have fans inside.

Carlisle’s Brunton Park, ironically, saw the last League Two game with supporters, a crowd of 2,822 for their win over Newport on March 10, 48 hours before English football went into lockdown.

There is still no clarity about whether the Government is willing to extend the numbers allowed in from October 1, amid recent clampdowns and fears of a resurgence of the virus.

Cambridge were the first club to open their gates with a limited crowd for their EFL trophy game with Fulham u-212 last week.

But EFL chairman Rick Parry said: ““It’s encouraging that we are in a position to move forward with the next phase of the pilot programme and give a small number of our clubs the opportunity to welcome back up to a 1,000 fans this week.

“The health and well-being of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge, social distancing can be applied safely. 

“By extending across more EFL clubs we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month.

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“The requirement to welcome spectators back through turnstiles has not diminished in any way, the financial challenges facing EFL Clubs have been explained on numerous occasions, they are substantial and a problem that requires immediate solutions."

Dowden said: “I know that many fans are eager to return to football and that jobs depend on this too, so fans will welcome news that the EFL will be running number capped, covid secure, and socially distanced pilots this weekend. 

“This will help us build the evidence base to see how we can return fans safely in greater numbers as soon as it is safe to do so."

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Oktobirdfest on Eastern Shore provides novice bird-watchers with upcoming socially distant activity

A socially distanced bird-watching weekend is coming up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. This photo shows royal terns in foreground, Western willets and marbled godwits behind. Just one of the birds you might see during Oktobirdfest are sanderlings. Courtesy Lynn Fisher If you go to Oktobirdfest, you might see these birds: a caspian tern, double-crested cormorant and royal tern. Courtesy Lynn Fisher An American oystercatcher hunts amid a number of dunlins. Courtesy Lynn Fisher (1/4) Share This Gallery: Share on Facebook. Share on Twitter. Share via email. Print.

Looking for a socially distant, outdoor activity in October?

If you’re up for a drive east, you can link up with Delmarva Birding Weekends for their upcoming “Octobirdfest.”

It runs Oct. 9-11 with trips to Maryland shore towns like Ocean City and Berlin, and other scenic locations in Sussex County, Delaware and Worcester County, Maryland.

Dave Wilson, one of the weekend’s organizers, said last year was the first year for the fall birding weekend, which complemented the spring and winter weekends.

Together with his guide, Jim Rapp, Wilson said it made sense to create “Octobirdfest,” which combined bird-watching with a “tally rally” at local breweries.

This year, the event is back, but in a slightly subdued way due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, COVID-19 concerns don’t bother the birds, so there’s still plenty of amazing bird-watching ahead.

Wilson said this time of year is particularly rewarding because you have a unique combination of birds in the region. Wilson said birds like plovers have arrived after breeding near the Arctic Circle, and join the resident tricolored herons, egrets and little blue herons. You can also see birds of prey such as bald eagles and peregrine falcons.

In addition, October is still early enough that some birds haven’t migrated south yet.

“They’re just spectacular birds, really good stuff to see,” Wilson said.

Wilson also said the trips are not exclusive for expert bird-watchers.

“Most of our birders are beginners,” Wilson said. “There are no snotty birders or anything like that, we’re there to have fun and spend time out doors.”

All events during the three-day weekend will have proper social distancing measures in place as part of their coronavirus restriction plans. It also includes hand sanitizer and mask-wearing requirements when groups cannot stay more than six feet apart.

Masks will be required for all events except for on-water paddling tours.

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.


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