Fans to Return to Stadiums in December: How Will it Work?

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Hope that a return to watching professional sports live in England is only a couple of weeks away.

An empty Anfield stadium with stands decorated with flags.

The UK government has announced that fans will be allowed to attend professional sporting events in England for the first time in months. The new plan will allow limited numbers of fans to watch their favourite sports live with effect from December 2nd. We have all the latest information on how the new rules will work.

We wrote previously about how negatively the lack of fans has impacted various sports. Covid has wreaked havoc in all manner of ways in 2020, but at last sports fans will have a sliver of comfort, as people are due to be allowed to cheer on their favourite teams and players live and in person. The number of fans allowed to attend will depend upon the tier level of the relevant area, as follows:

  • Tier 1: Up to 4,000 outdoors/2,000 indoors or 50% capacity (whichever is lowest)
  • Tier 2: Up to 2,000 outdoors/1,000 indoors or 50% capacity (whichever is lowest)
  • Tier 3: No spectators.

Based on current numbers, areas such as London and the South of England can hope to be in Tier 1 by the second of December. The news is not looking quite as positive for those living in the North West, North East or the Midlands, unless the Covid infection rates drop by quite a large amount in the next couple of weeks.

Which Events Can We Watch Live First?

In effect, this could mean that some teams will enjoy the advantages of a home support, plus the boost to their finances, while others will have to struggle on without either. There have already been grumblings of discontent because of this, especially from smaller clubs whose finances have taken a hard hit this year. It could lead to a situation where Premier League teams like Tottenham and Chelsea are playing in front of (some of) their fans, while Manchester City and Newcastle will carry on performing to empty stands.

No alcohol is likely to be permitted to be served within stadiums, and most probably mask-wearing will be compulsory before, during and after the event. These measures are unlikely to douse the enthusiasm of fans hungry to enjoy live sport once again. Some of the first major events which may see fans in attendance include Manchester United v PSG, Arsenal v Rapid Vienna, Bristol v Northampton Saints in the rugby Premiership and horse racing from Haydock and Kempton Park.

While the new rules may not be perfect – or even perfectly fair – it is still a welcome sign that the world of sports is taking a step towards normality.

Ross O’Connor is an experienced sports writer with a particular interest in the NFL, pro boxing and football. He has written for numerous online and print publications on sports and a variety of other topics.
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