Fans can return to live sport next week but who can go and where can they do it?
Spectators will be able to attend sports events in certain parts of England from next week after the Government introduced a regionalised tier system to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look.
– What has been announced?
The Government has set out which tier each part of England will be in when the current national lockdown restrictions end on December 2. Only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly start off in tier one – areas deemed medium risk – but in high-risk tier two, outdoor elite sports venues are able to allow in up to 2,000 spectators or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is lowest. This drops to 1,000 or 50 per cent capacity for indoor venues.
Tier three areas – those deemed as very high risk – must continue behind closed doors.
– Who has benefited?
In the Premier League, it’s a 50-50 split, with those in London and the south coast, plus Everton and Liverpool, able to welcome in spectators when the lockdown ends.
The EFL said on Thursday that 34 of its 72 clubs were in tier two. Seven of the 12 teams in the Women’s Super League can welcome supporters in, while it’s the same split in rugby union’s Gallagher Premiership.
– When might the first events under the new rules take place?
Cambridge spoke positively on Thursday about supporters being able to attend their League Two match against Mansfield on December 2, so they look set to be among the first EFL clubs to take the plunge. The Us have been trailblazers throughout, and were the first English professional club to stage a competitive pilot event when they hosted Fulham’s under-21s in the Papa John’s Trophy back in September.
Racegoers could also attend meetings at Ludlow, Lingfield, Haydock and Kempton on the same day.
– What about the Premier League?
The first Premier League team to play in front of supporters in a competitive match since March will be Arsenal, with 2,000 fans due to attend their Europa League match against Rapid Vienna at the Emirates Stadium on December 3. The first Premier League match with fans will be West Ham’s home encounter against Manchester United on the evening of December 5.
– What about rugby union?
Worcester are planning for 2,000 spectators to attend the Premiership game against Bath on December 5, while the following day 2,000 will watch England’s final autumn international at Twickenham. The Rugby Football Union has said 400 of the tickets will be reserved for local NHS workers, as recognition of their hard work and bravery during the pandemic.
– How will tickets be allocated at other events?
It will vary from club to club and event to event, but most clubs are likely to hold ballots for existing season ticket holders. Whether any others follow the RFU’s lead and reward NHS or other key workers remains to be seen.
– Are any indoor events planning to let people in next week?
In theory, spectators could be allowed in to watch snooker’s UK Championship next week, which is taking place in a tier two area, Milton Keynes. Chinese star Ding Junhui says he does not believe it is safe yet, but fellow player Judd Trump said he would welcome it.
– Will fans be able to travel from one tier to another to watch their team, even if they own a season ticket?
The Football Association and other bodies are still awaiting clarity on this issue. But Government guidance states that those in tier three should avoid travel to other parts of the UK, except where absolutely necessary.
– What have people said?
While the move has been welcomed as a step in the right direction, Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa says the partial nature of the reopening has created an integrity issue.
“It shouldn’t be about the category, or the consequences of being in a category, it should be about trying to maintain the competition as equal as possible with things that are controllable,” the Argentinian said.
“The presence of fans has an effect on the results.”