Football fans across the country were dealt a disappointing blow on Tuesday morning.
With the country as a whole preparing for a tightening of coronavirus measures from Thursday onwards, news filtered through surrounding planned test events for the return of supporters to stadiums.
It was perhaps to be expected given the situation of rising cases across the UK, but the cancellation of these pilot occasions was undoubtedly a frustrating one.
The Premier League and the Government have been involved in some disagreement over recent weeks regarding test events and plans, at the time, to reduce the amount of people allowed inside respective stadiums for them.
However, the organisation clearly was committed to returning supporters to seats as soon as it was safe to do so.
A statement from the Premier League last Thursday read: “Clubs reaffirmed that the continued loss of matchday revenues is having a significant impact across the League as well as on the football pyramid and local and national economies.
“Taking into account the high safety standards which will be set by the Premier League in conjunction with the relevant public authorities, the League and clubs urge Government to remain committed to the 1 October date for the controlled return of fans to sporting venues.”
Of course, that is no longer the case.
For Everton supporters it means another extension to their long spell away from Goodison Park.
The last time Blues fans were in their seats for a game at their own ground was the 1-1 draw against Manchester United right at the beginning of March.
There was a slim hope that perhaps there could be some supporters back in the ground during October but now that is off the table, it means another Goodison derby will be behind-closed-doors.
June’s meeting between Everton and Liverpool confirmed the worst fears about hosting such an iconic fixtures in a stadium without fans.
Yes the players gave it their all in the first game following lockdown and the Blues could well have come away with three points rather than just one, but it was an altogether hollow affair.
The unique atmosphere that comes with a match against your most bitter rivals had evaporated. Regardless of what the players do on the pitch, it doesn’t have that same feeling to be watching from your couch rather than surrounded by thousands of other Evertonians.
The systems around behind-closed-doors fixtures have improved since that point and supporters are somewhat “used” to the situation by now. But that doesn’t make things any less disappointing.
Blues fans for the last few weeks have been desperate to see their side in action not least to give their new signings the proper welcome they deserve.
Allan, James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucoure have all hit the ground running since their moves to Merseyside, but they’re not getting the full experience of what it is to be an Everton player.
The adoration of the Goodison crowd, the roaring atmosphere, the wild celebrations for each goal – that’s the essence of the club on a matchday.
All of that will be absent for the 237th Merseyside derby. Who knows what the situation will be like for the return fixture in February.
But, in the grand scheme of things, the Blues are one of the lucky ones.
The ongoing crisis doesn’t bring with it an immediate threat of financial jeopardy or bring fears regarding the long term future of the club itself.
Other sides across the country won’t have that same luxury, and so today’s news will be a crippling blow to many.
Everton supporters will certainly be disappointed with a longer wait to get back to Goodison, but will be safe in the knowledge that they will be sat in their seats again at some point in the future.
That’s not the case for some clubs in the lower leagues, and they must be allowed to get all the support they can over the coming weeks and months to keep clubs afloat.
All things considered, another Merseyside derby behind-closed-doors is a small price to pay when compared to other clubs, even if it’s clearly not the ideal situation.
The return to Goodison will be sweet when it is safe to do so.