Fans gear up for return to sports venues in England as Covid restrictions ease

·3-min read

Sporting venues across England will welcome back spectators on Monday as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

The third step of the Government’s coronavirus recovery road map will see football, greyhound racing, horse racing, rugby league and rugby union among the sports to open their doors to fans.

Larger seated outdoor venues will be able to admit up to 10,000 spectators. Smaller outdoor venues capacities will be capped at 4,000 or 50 per cent, whichever is the lowest.

Chelsea v Leicester City – Emirates FA Cup Final – Wembley Stadium
Celebrating Leicester fans were among a 21,000 crowd for Saturday’s FA Cup final coronavirus test event (Nick Potts/PA)

After Saturday’s successful FA Cup final test event, which saw 21,000 in attendance for Leicester’s Wembley victory over Chelsea, two Sky Bet Championship clubs will see the return of fans.

Barnsley will be backed by around 4,500 for their play-off tie with Swansea, while just over 2,000 will be in attendance when Bournemouth host Brentford in the other semi-final first leg.

But fans have had to get used to a new set of rules with face-masks, online health checks and maintaining social distance now part of the matchday routine.

Barnsley’s club website has also advised fans “to avoid hugs, ‘high-fives’, handshakes, or other close contact with those not in your social group”.

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Crowds will also be back in rugby union’s Gallagher Premiership, with leaders Bristol expecting a crowd of 3,138 for the visit of West Country neighbours Gloucester and Newcastle playing Northampton in front of 1,750.

Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam said: “We are ready for a lot more than the 3,000, but this is the beginning stage to eventually a situation where we will have a few more and a few more.

“My understanding is that they will be spread around the ground, with social distancing, so there will be noise coming from everywhere.”

Rugby league has a busy programme on Monday night with five Super League matches and two Championship games.

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Hull can have 5,500 for their home game with Catalans Dragons, St Helens and Warrington can welcome 4,000 each, Castleford’s capacity is 3.600 and Leigh are working to 2,000.

The Championship games at Featherstone and Swinton are expected to have attendances of just under 1,000.

Carlisle, Redcar, Leicester and Windsor will all host race fixtures on Monday and therefore be the first tracks to benefit from the change in policy, although Ffos Las is still restricted to racing behind closed doors due to the differing stance between the English and Welsh governments.

There is also a slight easing in restrictions on course, with owners able to access the parade ring to meet trainers and jockeys, and masks only compulsory in the paddock and indoor areas.

Ludlow Races – December 2nd
Horse racing fans will be able to return to English tracks on Monday (David Davies/PA)

Redcar’s general manager Amy Fair said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming spectators back after so long, we’ve really missed the atmosphere they bring, but the emphasis has to remain very much on public safety.”

Romford Greyhound Stadium will also welcome back fans but no on-course bookmakers will be present.

Premier League crowds will return on Tuesday with the league pushing back its penultimate round of matches back to May 18 and 19.

That decision has allowed every club to play one game in front of supporters before the end of the season on Sunday.

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