Matt Grimes

Swansea City return to action | Things to look out for

17th June
First team

Swansea City return to action after a three-month absence when they take on Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday, but it will be a very different occasion to that which would have played out had the game gone ahead on its original date of March 14.

Here, we look a few of the changes to watch out for as football gets back under way, while adhering to strict measures designed to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

Empty stadiums

Liberty Stadium

The most visible and obvious change will be the absence of supporters from stadia due to the risks of transmission of Coronavirus.

It will make for a rather surreal experience and the Jack Army will certainly be missed by Steve Cooper and his side, but supporters are asked to avoid congregating in the areas around stadiums, or in any other public places while games are taking place.

Swans fans will have unprecedented access to live coverage of their side’s games via Sky Sports and SwansTV Live. You can find more information around those options HERE.

Walk-outs and handshakes

Supporters will have become attuned to the pre-match sight of the two sides leaving the tunnel at the same time, led by the match officials, ahead of kick-off.

However, this will not be the case over the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign.

Sides will take to the field one at a time, with the players observing social distancing measures and the away side entering the playing surface first.

They will be followed by the home side and then the match officials.

There will be no pre-match handshake, players and officials will simply take their positions for the start of the game.

The coin toss will still take place, but social distancing will be observed.

The measures for taking to the field for the start of the game will be mirrored when the teams leave the changing rooms for the second half.

Substitutes, matchday squads and drinks breaks

Steve Cooper

Once the action is under way, the one major change made to the rules in the short term is that sides can now use five substitutes.

Approved by the International Football Associations Board (IFAB), it will also mean coaches can now pick 20-man squads for each game with nine players on the bench.

However, sides will only have three opportunities to make changes, meaning double and triple substitutions are likely to become more commonplace.

That rule change has been made with player welfare in mind given the lengthy break since action was suspended in March, and the busy upcoming fixture schedule.

Substitutes, along with staff in the club’s dug-out and technical area, must follow social distancing protocols.

There will also be designated drinks breaks of no more than a minute at the halfway point of each half.

Physios and medical staff

Derby George Byers

When players require treatment, supporters will notice that team physios and doctors will all be wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in order to limit the potential for the spread of Coronavirus.

Additionally, all balls, posts, corner flags and other football equipment will be disinfected before and after use.

Artificial crowd noise

Swansea City supporters

With no supporters in attendance, clubs are free to look at the possibility of using artificial crowd noise to provide an element of context to the action on the pitch.

Such an approach was introduced with some success in the Bundesliga and a number of clubs in the Premier League and Championship are expected to follow suit, although it will be a matter of choice for each individual club.

Middlesbrough will be piping crowd noise into their stadium, like the majority of Championship clubs. The Swans are likely to do the same if tests prove successful

Thanks to the NHS

The selfless bravery and expertise of NHS staff across Wales and England will be recognised at all remaining Championship fixtures.

All players’ jerseys will have a ‘Thank You’ message next to the NHS rainbow logo that has appeared across the country as the public pay tribute to the efforts of all NHS staff and key works during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Swans will also sport a special NHS Wales logo on their shorts.

This messaging will also appear around stadiums and will be visible for the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign, while a period of applause will be held before kick-off in all this weekend’s games.

No ball boys

Championship ball

As a safety measure there will be no ball boys to retrieve balls from off the pitch to put back in play.

If a ball disappears into the stand and will take too long to retrieve, there will be a number of disinfected balls set out on cones around the edge of the pitch to use instead.

Post-match media duties

New Cooper presser graphic

Each manager or head coach is required to hold a post-match press conference, but this will look very different to the familiar set-up of journalists gathered around a table in a designated media room.

Post-match interviews will still take place, but those for broadcasters will be carried out outdoors with social distancing measures being observed.

The post-match press conference will be held virtually.