With the opening fixtures of 2021/22 English Football League (EFL) season kicking off around the country this weekend, Bolton Wanderers and the EFL are thrilled to be welcoming fans back into stadiums for the start of what is shaping up to be another exciting campaign.
Stadiums have been unable to reach capacity in Sky Bet League One fixtures since March 2020 and the support of fans has been sorely missed. The first weekend of the new season will hear the roar of crowds return to the terraces, reminding us of football’s power to bring people together by reuniting supporters, communities, friends and families with their clubs.
Sky Bet League One is home to some of the giants of English football and will be one of the most unpredictable and gripping divisions this season. With promotion and relegation at its heart, League One contributes to one of the strongest footballing pyramids in world football.
This structure is underpinned by a passionate and loyal fan base, which makes League One and League Two the best-attended third and fourth divisions in world football, respectively. The average League One attendance grew by 22% between 2015/16 and 2019/20.
The new season follows a successful UEFA EURO 2020 competition for England, with the EFL playing an important role in the development of some of the nation’s most recognisable players. Of the 15 England players who featured in the semi-final win over Denmark, 10 have played in the EFL at some point in their career including club captain Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Harry Maguire and Jack Grealish.
The impact of the EFL on the international game could also be seen across the tournament. A total of 33 players, who played for 15 different Sky Bet EFL Clubs during the 2020/21 season, represented their countries during the EUROs.
This season will also see the return of the Carabao Cup and the Papa John’s Trophy. Providing some of the best memories for supporters and Clubs since its inception in 1960, the Carabao Cup plays an important role in the footballing pyramid and offers Clubs significant income from sponsorship and broadcast deals.
The Papa John’s Trophy also provides an excellent opportunity for EFL Clubs to reach a Wembley Final and offers a £3m prize pot that includes financial rewards for each victory.
Both competitions are also traditionally a place for young players to break through into the first team and gain valuable experience. Phil Foden scored his first professional goal in the League Cup, whilst Jude Bellingham and Dominic Calvert-Lewin both made their debuts in the competition.
Wanderers club captain Antoni Sarcevic said: "I am delighted to see the return of our fans this coming weekend when we take on MK Dons in Sky Bet League One action.
"The club has sold over 10,000 season tickets and I know the lads cannot wait to play in front of them on Saturday. "We have really missed them - they truly are the lifeblood of Bolton Wanderers"
Trevor Birch, CEO of the EFL commented: “It is fantastic to see our clubs welcoming a number of their fans back to their stadiums and training grounds today as part of the EFL’s Season Launch.
"In only a few days’ time thousands of supporters will be going through the turnstiles at EFL grounds across the country as we embark on what’s set to be another exhilarating, unpredictable and compelling EFL campaign.
“Supporters are what make our game special and nothing can replace that matchday experience that will be back in all its glory this weekend. Football has unique ability to connect communities, bring people together and it will be a memorable day as we welcome fans back safely nationwide.”