Up to 4,000 fans are set to be allowed into outdoor sports events when the national lockdown ends.
Under the new rules, spectator sports outdoors will be allowed in Tier 1 and Tier 2 areas, potentially as soon as next week with England’s latest national lockdown ending on December 2.
Under the softest measures in Tier 1 areas there will be a maximum crowd size of either 50 per cent stadium occupancy or 4,000 spectators – whichever number is smaller.
In the medium Tier 2 areas, the stadium rules will be 50 per cent of overall capacity or 2,000 – whichever number is smaller. Indoors, there will be a limit of 1,000 in both Tiers 1 and 2. However, for those in the strictest Tier 3 measures fans will still not be able to watch their teams live.
The Government's decision to allow some spectators back to live events comes after the Evening Standard campaigned to 'Bring Back the Fans'.
The Evening Standard challenged the Government to bring back spectators to live sports events in its ‘Bring back the fans’ campaign, fronted by former Arsenal star Ian Wright.
Various clubs ran test events during the summer to prove fans could return safely, but supporters have largely been unable to attended since March. The last Premier League game to be played in front of a crowd was Leicester’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9.
Speaking from his continued self-isolation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the go ahead from Wednesday for tiers 1 and 2 of “spectator sports and business events inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing” which he said was more in keeping with previous plans for theatres and concert halls before the latest national lockdown.
Johnson also said that “outdoor sports can resume” and that “gyms and wider leisure centres can reopen”.
It has not yet been confirmed what tier London will fall into but it is thought to be tier 2, and Johnson said the tiers would be announced potentially as soon as Thursday.
In tier 1, indoor sport will be allowed to go ahead if adhering to the rule of six, while in tier 2 indoor sport is only allowed within the same household but households can mix for singles tennis/badminton while keeping socially distant. In tier 3, indoor sport is “restricted to within your household only”.
Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, outlined the measures on social media during Johnson’s speech to the House of Commons saying that, immaterial of the tier, all gyms can reopen and amateur sport return as well as children’s team sport.
Dowden said: "This is a big step forward for sport. Bringing grassroots sport back was my number one 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."
The Football League welcomed the announcement and were at pains to point out the success of their pilot events earlier this season.
An EFL spokesman said: “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.
“Having worked closely in developing the appropriate safety guidance in conjunction with DCMS and the SGSA, alongside undertaking a series of pilot events hosting up to 1,000 spectators in September, EFL Clubs have already demonstrated that they are well positioned to deliver the safe return of fans
“Exit analysis shows that those who attended pilot fixtures felt overwhelmingly safe and adhered to the necessary protocols and the EFL will continue its work with Clubs to ensure that they have the most up to-date safety procedures in place to welcome supporters back as soon as the relevant restrictions are lifted.”
Arsenal are looking into the details behind the Prime Minister's announcement, but are hoping to have fans at Emirates Stadium for their match with Rapid Vienna in the Europa League next Thursday. Whether they can or not, will depend on what tier London is in.
Arsenal said in September tickets for any reduced-capacity games will go to those supporters who made an “Initial Payment” before the season started.
Arsenal did not ask fans to pay the full amount of their season ticket, but offered them the option to make an “Initial Payment” that will qualify them to enter the balloting process for the reduced capacity games.
The “Initial Payment” is equivalent to the behind closed doors credit and any unused cup tie credits (General Admission only) from the 2019/20 season.