Arsenal will be among the first football clubs whose fans will be allowed to return to stadiums for matches next week, but Manchester United will miss out, following the announcement of a new regional tier system today.
Liverpool will also be in the first wave of top tier matches allowed to admit spectators.
Football and other elite sports, including rugby and horse racing, are now scrambling to be ready to welcome spectators, which will be the first time for many since the coronavirus pandemic swept Britain and forced the first national locdown in March.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has revealed in the House of Commons which tier each area of England has been placed in as part of the new regional restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, which come into force on Wednesday December 2.
Elite sport clubs and venues have been waiting to find out if they can allow fans next week
Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed which tier each area of England has been placed in
The government had already said that elite sports events would be allowed to admit spectators for the first time in more than eight months, if they are in areas where infection rates are low.
Under the rules, which come into force following the end of the latest period of national lockdown, events in tier one areas will be allowed up to 4,000 fans, in tier two it will be up to 2,000, but no supporters will be allowed at events in tier three.
The government’s regional tier system dictates if sports venues can let specators back in
It remains to be seen if all clubs entitled to admit fans will choose to do so, given the costs of staging a match. Most games in bigger stadiums will make a loss. Premier League teams need around 10,000 supporters in the ground to break even.
Where fans will return
The FIVE Premier League matches that will be allowed to host 2,000 fans on the weekend of December 5 and 6 are:
Tottenham v Arsenal
Liverpool v Wolves
Chelsea v Leeds
West Ham v Man United
Brighton v Southampton
Today’s announcement places Manchester in tier three, which means Manchester United fans will not be allowed to attend their club’s Champions League group match against Paris Saint Germain at Old Trafford on December 2.
The club, which has previously said it belives it can safely host 23,500 supporters, issued a statement after the city’s tier three status was confirmed.
‘Our plans for safely welcoming back fans to Old Trafford are well advanced and we look forward to doing so as soon as we are given the go ahead,’ said a spokesman.
‘We will continue to work with local authorities on finalising our plans so that we can move quickly when our area comes out of Tier 3.
‘We thank our fans for their continued patience and will keep them informed of further developments.’
However, since London is in tier two, the rules will allow up to 2,000 Arsenal supporters to attend their Europa League tie against Rapid Vienna at the Emirates on Thursday December 3. Arsenal are expected to provide full details later.
And Liverpool will welcome 2,000 supporters for their game with Wolves on Saturday December 5 after the government listened to the city’s pleas to be placed in tier two.
Fans have been desperate to return to matches in the Premier League and EFL
Other Premier League matches in tier two areas during that weekend, which will be allowed to have 2,000 fans in the stadium, include, West Ham-Manchester United, Tottenham-Arsenal, Brighton-Southampton and Chelsea-Leeds,
Sportsmail understands that West Ham, Tottenham, Brighton and Chelsea will all set to welcome fans at these games.
Premier League Tiers
Premier League football clubs in tier two areas, which can host 2,000 fans:
Clubs in tier three areas, where fans can still not attend:
The clubs are preparing to communicate with fans over ticketing arrangements, but they all face a challenge in managing expectations since inevitably many long-standing supporters will be disapppointed.
However, Manchester-City-Fulham, Burnley-Everton, Aston Villa-Newcastle, West Brom-Crystal Palace and Sheffield-United-Leicester will not be allowed to open the turnstiles.
The Premier League is yet to confirm the scheduling for matches to be played over the weekend of December 5 and 6.
There are no professional football clubs in any areas placed in tier one, which includes, Cornwall, Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight.
There is an extensive EFL programme of fixtures on Wednesday, but given many areas have been designated by government as tier three, many will still not be allowed fans.
In addition, racing is scheduled to take place on Wednesday at Haydock Park on Merseyside, Kempton Park and Lingfield in Surrey, and Ludlow in Shropshire. Up to 2,000 spectators will be allowed, under the rules, to attend all of these events.
On Thursday, however, only the meet at Chelmsford in Essex will be in a position to accept 2,000 race-goers, Leicester and Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, which are also hosting meetings, are both in tier three and therefore no fans will be allowed.
In rugby union, Bristol are due to host Northampton Saints at Ashton Gate on Friday December 4, but since the city is placed in a tier three area, no fans will be allowed. Ashton Gate has worked hard to create a robust system for fans return, but the venue, which also hosts Bristol City will have to wait before supporters can watch live sport.
The finals of the Autumn Nations Cup are taking place over the same weekend, with England set to play at Twickenham on Sunday December 6. If the RFU decides to admit spectators, 2,000 would now be allowed to attend.
Today’s announcement means 1,000 fans will be allowed for indoor sports events, including Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev on December 12 in London.
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
The onerous tiered system which the Prime Minister has said will remain in place until March 31