David Moyes expects ‘extremely empty’ stadium experience despite fans return

David Moyes admits the London Stadium will still feel “extremely empty” when West Ham set a Premier League first a week on Saturday.

The Hammers will be the first top-flight club to be able to allow fans in for a home league game since March when they play Manchester United in a 5.30pm kick-off.

The 32 London boroughs and the City of London are in tier two of the Government’s new regionalised system for tackling coronavirus, in which outdoor sports venues are allowed crowds of up to 2,000 once national lockdown restrictions end on December 2.

Moyes is excited at the prospect of having spectators at the match against his former club, but admits it may be a struggle to pick them out in the 60,000-capacity venue.

And he believes the greatest benefit from the new tier rules will be felt at EFL level, where 34 of the 72 teams will soon be able to welcome fans back.

“Hopefully we’ll see that the football clubs can manage it, we can start to get to bigger numbers quicker,” he said. “Certainly our stadium will seem extremely empty with only 2,000 supporters in the size of stadium we’ve got.

“So hopefully the quicker we can get into bigger numbers the better, but this is a start and hopefully it works well.

“The good news for me is that the lower-league clubs are getting the supporters back as well, which is really important for football all round the country. Hopefully that will help them, who need the revenue maybe much more than a club like West Ham.”

Meanwhile, Tottenham have confirmed plans for 2,000 fans to attend the north London derby against Arsenal next month.

The club said they will run a ballot of season ticket holders and executive members in order to allocate the tickets.

Spurs said their women’s team’s Super League match against Brighton at The Hive in Barnet would also be played in front of a “limited capacity” on the same day as the men’s derby encounter.

Tottenham said they looked forward to welcoming NHS staff and key workers to the stadium “at the appropriate time” to enjoy a match.

Their north London rivals will be the first Premier League team to play a competitive match in front of supporters since March when they host Rapid Vienna in a Europa League match on December 3.

The tier three restrictions, where fans remain banned, are causing problems further down the football pyramid.

The Northern Football League said its competition would remain suspended until at least December 16 because only three of its 40 clubs would be able to allow fans in.

The league, which is at steps five and six of the pyramid, had been forced to suspend when grassroots sport was banned for the lockdown period. December 16 is when the Government has said it will first review the tiers.

The league’s management committee said it was “simply not financially viable” to resume behind closed doors.

Harlequins chief executive Laurie Dalrymple welcomed the Government’s decision, but hoped numbers would rise quickly to boost revenues.

“This is a really positive step and the sooner we can prove it’s a safe environment, the faster we can escalate up to 4,000 and upwards after that,” Dalrymple told the PA news agency.

“We need to contribute to proving there’s a clear pathway to normality, but we’ve been in this long enough now to know nothing is guaranteed.”

Premiership Rugby is set to receive £59million in Government funding as part of the ‘Winter Survival Package’ it announced last week.