Carlisle United are hoping they will be one of the EFL clubs chosen to welcome fans back to their ground this weekend.

The Blues have confirmed they have submitted a request to the league to host a test game on Saturday.

United say they are now waiting to hear if the visit of Southend to Brunton Park will be one of the games selected.

If it is, it will see fans back in Carlisle's ground for the first time since the Covid-19 shutdown, with a limit of 1,000 supporters.

Chief executive Nigel Clibbens tonight confirmed Carlisle had asked to host a test game at their first home league fixture of the 2020/21 season.

He said on United's website: "We have submitted our request to the EFL to have fans with us for a test game on Saturday against Southend.

"This was with the full support of the chairman of our Safety Advisory Group. We are still waiting to hear if we are one of the matches selected.

"The health of the public and our fans and staff is the absolute priority. A set of operational guidelines to maintain social distancing at grounds has been drawn up by the authorities and we have spent a lot of time carefully making sure we can follow and adhere to them."

Clibbens said United have been in close contact with Cambridge, who hosted a pilot game against Fulham in the EFL Trophy last week, with 862 supporters attending. That was before a further pilot game against Carlisle in League Two was shelved after the planned capacity of 2,500 was reduced to 1,000 at short notice after the Government's tightening of coronavirus restrictions.

Carlisle have been planning towards the Southend fixture as a possible test game and now await a decision from the football authorities.

It today emerged that the EFL was set to confirm a "limited" number of test events that will see fans back at some stadiums this weekend.

Clubs were asked to put in requests by today in order for their plans to be considered.

Those clubs in local lockdown areas will not be given permission to take part in the test events.

Carlisle, though, do not fall in that category and so a long-awaited return of some fans to their ground soon remains possible.

In a letter to clubs this morning, as reported by the BBC, the EFL's head of policy John Nagle said: "We cannot guarantee at this stage that all clubs that would like to stage a pilot will be given permission to do so, as only a limited number will be approved.

"We are still in discussions with regard to pilot matches on other dates."

The EFL are continuing discussions with the government about further pilot events later this month.

The league said they were "clear" in their view that social distancing can be applied at grounds - and having fans back through the turnstiles is "absolutely essential" to helping protect clubs' finances.

"The successful delivery of further pilots will be an important step towards getting larger numbers of fans into grounds safely," they added.

The latest news comes after sports minister Nigel Huddleston confirmed that plans remain to allow supporters back into stadiums next month.

He said that, subject to successful pilot events "and the wider public health conditions", it is hoped fans can return safely to grounds from October 1.

Huddleston set out the intentions in a letter to former sports minister Tracey Crouch.

Crouch said clubs in the National League could face serious financial problems if fans continued to be prevented from attending games because of Covid-19.

Huddleston, though, said other pilot games will take place this month and will be a guide towards further plans for reintroducing fans to grounds with reduced capacities at that level and those above, such as United's division League Two.

Whitehaven News: Sports minister Nigel HuddlestonSports minister Nigel Huddleston

He wrote: "The government wants to see spectators back at sports events as soon and as safely as possible.

"We have made important progress in staging a series of pilot and test events across different sports with more to follow.

"The pilot programme will continue throughout September, restricted to a maximum capacity of 1,000 people.

"The success of these events will be reviewed ahead of the current date of October 1 for reopening for socially distanced spectators under covid-secure conditions more widely if public health conditions permit.

"The events have been selected to test a range of different event styles across the country's major men's and women's sports.

"A number of successful pilots have already been completed, including snooker at the Crucible, cricket at Edgbaston and football at Brighton and Hove Albion.

"I know how important this is for sports clubs for whom paying spectators are vital. That is why we amended guidance to provide extra clarification for organisers of non-elite sport events to help them manage and admit spectators safely, adhering to social distancing.

"As stated in my previous response, it is up to the respective governing bodies to determine what constitutes the boundary between elite and non-elite within their sports.

"In football's case, the FA's definition means that only leagues below National League north and south can continue with spectators.

"However, subject to the successful staging of the pilot programme and the wider public health conditions, we hope to reopen elite sports fixtures including the National League for socially distanced spectators under covid-secure conditions from October 1.

"We continue to work closely with a whole range of sports to understand the latest thinking that may allow increased numbers of spectators to return.

"This includes the creation of a new Sports Technology Innovation Working Group of sporting bodies and health experts to analyse new technologies which might support this."

Carlisle last week revealed they have been preparing for a minimum capacity of about 3,500 when supporters can return to Brunton Park to watch League Two action.

Supporters' group minutes also showed United's intentions regarding the wearing of face masks, track and trace procedures, and the use of turnstiles, bars and catering outlets.

The Blues have sold more than 1,700 season tickets and have recently been contacting fans to arrange payments.

Cumbrian non-league clubs below the National League, such as Workington Reds, Penrith and Carlisle City, have already been able to welcome fans back to their grounds.