A handful of sports fans will be allowed back to watch live action once the national lockdown ends on December 2.
But the good news for supporters has been tempered by strict varying limits on stadiums in different geographical areas, depending on which tier each venue is in and its capacity.
The government will allow the lower number of 4,000 spectators – or 50 per cent of a stadium’s capacity – for outdoor events in Tier 1 areas. For indoor events in Tier 1 the maximum allowed will be the lower of 2,000 or 50 per cent of capacity.
HOW FANS WILL RETURN IN DIFFERENT AREAS
4,000 spectators/ 50% capacity for outdoor events, whichever is lower, and 2,000/ 50% capacity for indoor
2,000 spectators/50% capacity outdoors, whichever is lower, and 1,000/ 50% indoors
Ban on spectators remains
In Tier 2 areas, each of these numbers will be halved. So for outdoor events in Tier 2, a maximum of 2,000 spectators – or 50 per cent of capacity, whichever is lower – will be allowed. For indoor events the lower number of either 1,000 fans – or 50 per cent of normal capacity – will be allowed.
Areas that will go straight into Tier 3 however will still have to adhere to a ban of attending sporting events for all fans.
Sportsmail revealed last week that the Department for Culture Media and Sport has submitted proposals to the Cabinet Office for the return of fans to grounds in December for the first time since March.
In his statement detailing the long-awaited return of spectators to live sporting events, Boris Johnson said: ‘In Tiers 1 and 2 spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing.’
Mr Johnson also said outdoor grassroots sports and indoor sports facilities like gyms would be able to reopen.
He did warn, however, that at the end of lockdown more towns, cities and local authorities would be placed in higher tiers than before. The tiers for each region will be announced on Thursday.
Strict rules on travelling between regions in different tiers will also make it difficult for many fans to attend, even if they are one of the lucky ones to get a ticket.
Following today’s statement by the Prime Minister to the House of Commons, MPs will vote on his proposals later in the week.
Stadiums will be allowed to re-open from December 2 once the second lockdown is eased
Boris Johnson is set to make an announcement on the details for Tier 1 and 2 areas on Monday
FIRST MAJOR EVENTS THAT COULD ALLOW FANS IN
FOOTBALL: Manchester United v PSG, Old Trafford – Champions League
HORSE RACING: At Haydock Park, Lingfield Park, Ludlow – afternoon; Kempton Park – evening
FOOTBALL: Arsenal v Rapid Vienna, Emirates stadium – Europa League
RUGBY: Bristol v Northampton Saints, Ashton Gate – Premiership
(Admission of fans will depend on which tier the host ground is in)
Elite sports have continued behind closed doors during the four-week lockdown, while grassroots and amateur sport were stopped from 5 November.
Many sports and individual clubs were blindsided by today’s announcement, and will now be rushing to allow fans in as soon as their tier rating allows.
The English Football League is now considering moving its entire programme of fixtures next week to Wednesday in a bid to let grounds welcome back fans.
Haydock Park race course is due to host a meeting on December 2, and could be the first live sporting event with spectators. But with Liverpool in Tier 3 before this recent lockdown, that may nor happen,
There are three other meetings scheduled for December 2: at Kempton Park and Lingfield both in Surrey and Ludlow in Shropshire.
The sport staged two pilot events at Warwick and Doncaster in September and would feel comfortable about hosting spectators as soon as possible.
The most high-profile event planned for December 2 is Manchester United’s Champions League tie against PSG at Old Trafford. Previously, United have said they are ready to host 23,500 fans at Old Trafford.
The following night Rapid Vienna’s visit Arsenal.
However, Sportsmail understands that clubs have not yet been contacted by government about the plans to return fans to stadiums, so no decision has yet been taken about whether fans will be admitted.
One club source said: ‘Clubs are in the dark over exactly what it will mean and ar scrambling for as much information as possible.’
However, clubs at all levels of professional football have done a huge amount of preparation for the return of supporters, including making sure their stadiums are equipped for cashless payment, planning for staggered arrivals and social distancing in grounds.
‘It is really positive news,’ said Burnley chief executive, Neil Hart.
‘It is a starting point and what we have been waiting for. I hope we can embrace it and build upon it.
‘We are waiting to see what tier we end up in. If we are in tier two, we will look to mobilise and get 2,000 fans in.’
Burnley’s first game after lockdown is lifted on December 2 is at home to Everton on December 5.
However, clubs want to know how the admission of fans will develop. In Burnley’s case around 10,000 fans are needed for the club to bteak even on a game.
‘There has to be a road map for me,’ said Hart. ‘How we might ramp it up, linked to infection rates.
‘It would be really good to see a road map, to see how we get fans back in at full capacity, that has to be the primary objective.’
While football will welcome a return of fans, clubs are anxious that the government sets out a roadmap for increasing the numbers of spectators. At large stadiums, a few thousand fans would mean they are still running at a significant loss.
Rugby union had also been hard hit by the absence of fans but received the largest amount from the £300m government bail-out announced last week, but some of England’s fixtures may be allowed to bring fans back in.
Bristol Bears’ clash with Northampton Saints at Ashton Gate could be the first Premiership fixture to welcome fans back in.
Haydock Park Horse racing on December 2 could be the first sporting event with spectators
Man United’s game against PSG could be the first football game with fans in attendance, but not if Manchester is in Tier 3
Rugby union has suffered as a result of the lockdown but could see fans return soon
The news is timely however given that Macclesfield Town were wound up more than two months ago – strengthening fears other clubs may follow suit in the coming months.
The 146-year-old National League outfit, relegated from League Two last season, were forced into liquidation at a High Court hearing on Wednesday over debts totalling £500,000 and became the first club to fold during the pandemic.
It is understood at least ten EFL clubs will need an emergency loan to pay staff this month, with another ten thought to be teetering on the brink in December.
But it is not just those lower down the pyramid who are suffering immeasurable losses, with current Premier League leaders Spurs projecting that their revenue will drop by over £150million if they cannot welcome fans back.
In previous test events, Brighton hosted 2,524 fans in a preseason friendly against Chelsea and nine games in the EFL were limited to 1,000 fans.
Leyton Orien chief executive Danny Macklin welcomed the potential return of fans, tweeting: ‘ Sounds good news regarding a return of fans – obviously we all await government guidelines on what tier @BreyerGStadium will be in.
‘News when we have it probably later in week @leytonorientfc’.