KEITH Curle is as frustrated as anyone that the re-opening of Boundary Park has been delayed.

But he insists it was in the best interests of the club that Saturday’s friendly with Wigan Athletic was changed to a behind closed doors fixture.

Latics fans were expected to be allowed back for the first time since February 29, 2020 - the last game played at home before the first lockdown and subsequent curtailment of the 2019/20 season.

But with Covid restrictions not being lifted until Monday, the decision was taken to play Wigan behind closed doors and welcome fans back the following Saturday instead, for the visit of Premier League Burnley, to avoid the club hosting a game at a loss.

"I want a game at Boundary Park with fans in but not to the detriment of the finances of the football club,” said head coach Curle.

"People say 'does it really matter?'. Massively.

"There are some football clubs recently that have got in big financial trouble.

"This football club is taking measures to make sure every penny counts.”

Bristol Rovers have taken a similar decision for this weekend’s friendly against Plymouth Argyle.

Joey Barton’s side were due welcome up to 2,000 home supporters back to the Memorial Stadium, but the restrictions would have limited capacity, incurred extra costs due to the policing of social distancing and prevented bars and kiosks from opening.

It is for similar reasons that Port Vale’s home friendly with Nottingham Forest on Saturday will also be behind closed doors, prolonging the wait for live football.

Under the Covid SG02 regulations, the crowd capacity at Vale Park would be significantly reduced, while the club would have to fork out on signage and fencing, as well as a large number of portable toilets, for just one game.

Port Vale chief executive Colin Garlick said: “We are very disappointed that we are not able to invite fans back to Vale Park for this pre-season fixture.

“However, we do not want to disenfranchise any of our supporters and then there is the significant cost of Covid safety measures to be installed for two days before all restrictions are lifted on July 19.

“At the club we have been adamant that we want the return of supporters to be a genuine celebration. We want to be able to welcome all our fans back without compromise and without anyone having to miss out because we appreciate all they have done and continue to do for Port Vale.

“We’d like to thank our colleagues at Nottingham Forest for their support in planning for this fixture.”