The government has announced the commencement of the gradual reintroduction of fans into sporting venues after the nationwide lockdown on December 2.
The decision will come as welcome news to sports across the country, who have struggled with the financial toll that the coronavirus pandemic has brought by postponing events or holding them behind closed doors.
Fans were prohibited from attending sports when restrictions were first devised back in March as part of the first national lockdown to curb the rise in cases of COVID-19.
In an announcement made yesterday evening (November 23), the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, revealed that outdoor stadiums would be allowed to hold a number of fans, depending on the tier each area finds itself in.
In tier one areas, outdoor stadiums will be able to up to 4,000 fans or half of their maximum capacity, depending on which is fewer. In tier two areas, outdoor stadiums will be able to welcome up to 2,000 fans or half of their capacity, depending on which is fewer. In tier three areas, events will still have to be held behind closed doors. In indoor stadiums in tiers one and two, up to 1,000 fans or half of their capacity will be able to attend events, again, depending on which is fewer. No fans will be allowed into indoor stadiums in tier three.
“This is a big step forward for sport,” said Oliver Dowden, culture secretary of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
“Bringing grassroots sport back was my No 1 priority so I'm pleased we are reopening sports and gyms in every tier, in recognition of the significant health benefits.
“I'm also delighted we are able to get the turnstiles turning sooner than expected, taking a cautious approach and starting with the lowest-risk areas first.
“I'm confident that sports will take every step to ensure their fans are safe, and fans will play their part and look out for each other until we can safely get everyone back in.”
English Football League (EFL) clubs have been vocal throughout the pandemic in their reliance upon seeing fans return to stadiums to ensure their financial safety, after the government refused support to the leagues, demanding that the English Premier League agree upon a substantial survival package for the clubs hit hardest throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
A statement from the EFL read: “The EFL welcomes today’s decision by the Government to allow the return of supporters, capped at 4,000 in tier 1 and 2,000 in tier 2 when the national lockdown ends next week. We now look forward to the re-opening of some EFL Club stadiums as we finally welcome back fans after eight long months away.
“Whilst today’s news is subject to regional restrictions, it is an important step in achieving a return to normal, alongside it being crucial to addressing the significant revenue gap left by a lack of spectators and other revenue streams as a result of the pandemic.
“The restrictions in place does mean that not all Clubs will get the opportunity straight away to re-open their turnstiles and we still await further guidance from DCMS to understand what areas will be placed in which tier which will not be available until later this week. In the meantime we are doing all we can to ensure we are ready to return when allowed to do so.
Furthermore, the government announced that grassroots sport will be able to return as well across all tier levels and will apply to all ages. Golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and gyms are amongst the other sporting centres that were forced into closure as part of the month-long lockdown that will be able to reopen from December 2.
Author: Jake Wilkin