Ireland will be cheered on by a half-capacity crowd in September’s World Cup qualifiers Azerbaijan and Serbia at the Aviva Stadium following Government clearance for return of crowds.
Stephen Kenny’s first four home matches have been before empty stands but progress in the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out has improved the picture, with the green-light granted today for a turnaround of 25,000.
Public Health have applied a cautious approach to relaxing restrictions over this year, leading to the FAI losing their hosting rights for four matches in the delayed Euro 2020 finals tournament.
However, successful pilot events, including attendances of 6,000 and 8,000 for Bohemians' two European Conference League matches at the Aviva, prompted today’s commitment by the Junior Minister for Sport, Jack Chambers.
Ireland, without a point from their opening two qualifiers, face Portugal in Faro before the home double-header on September 4 and 7.
“This is great news for our Irish fans, for Stephen Kenny and his players, and for the FAI as we all look forward to the return of 25,000 or so fans to the Aviva Stadium in September for the Fifa World Cup games against Azerbaijan and Serbia,” said FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill.
“This news is so positive for Irish football and follows on from the recent positive experience of our own test events. Just last night I joined Minister Chambers at the Aviva Stadium for the Uefa Europa Conference League win for Bohemians against Dudelange of Luxembourg and the atmosphere was again fantastic.
“Now we can all really look forward to our supporters getting behind the senior men’s team for the first time since the pandemic.
“Many of our young players have yet to play before a home crowd at the Aviva Stadium so it will give them and Stephen Kenny such a lift to have 25,000 or so passionate Irish fans in the ground. One thing we have learned from the pandemic is that football is nothing without our fans.
“We are already working on the ticketing strategy for the game that will be fair and equitable for all and will give our team the best possible support on the night. We will share those plans with our supporters at the earliest opportunity.”