SPORTS fans in Britain can return to stadiums from December 2 onwards as the PM plans a relaxation of the sport coronavirus rules for Christmas.
In a huge boost for the nation, fans in Tier 1 and 2 are expected to be allowed to watch Premier League games and other sporting events in the flesh after the lockdown ends.
A set number of fans will be allowed into stadiums to cheer on their teams.
However, those in Tier 3 areas will continue to be locked out.
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Sports fans haven't been allowed to watch their teams in person since before the first lockdown back in March.
Brighton fans were allowed in to watch their team's friendly against Chelsea at the end of August.
But no other Premier League team has allowed supporters in since that test event.
Other sports, from racing to rugby and the lower leagues of football to boxing, have also seen fans barred.
Tier 1 is expected to be allow up to 4,000 fans to watch, with just 2,000 in Tier 2.
No fans in Tier 3 will be allowed into stadiums or events.
Only two Premier League clubs – Brighton and Southampton, which are expected to remain under Tier 1 covid restrictions after the lockdown ends on December 2 – will be allowed to let in the maximum amount.
Ironically, the south coast rivals are due to play each other on the weekend of December 5, the first round of action after the rules relax.
Many sides in the North will have to continue to play in empty stadiums, with strict Tier 3 restrictions expected to remain in place.
Anthony Joshua's heavyweight title fight with Kubrat Pulev is taking place at Wembley Arena on December 12.
London was in Tier 3 before the national lockdown, but if the capital is downgraded, fans could return to see AJ in action.
The same applies for the PDC World Darts Championships, which are taking place at Alexandra Palace from December 18.
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport have been pushing plans to allow fans in areas where coronavirus infection rates are low to attend games.
But others in Government were concerned about creating packed trains and forcing people to queue outside stadiums – which could possibly spred the virus and increase infections.
The PM also was expected to announce today:
- The new tiers system will be tougher than before with extra restrictions to keep the nation safe until a Christmas relaxation
- But the 10pm curfew will be relaxed – with people given until 11pm to finish up and leave
- All shops will be allowed to reopen so Brits can do their Christmas shopping
- Pubs face stricter rules in the top tiers – with people unable to mix with friends outside unless their order a meal
Football matches have been allowed to go ahead, but behind closed doors with no fans.
Other sports have been allowed to welcome back crowds in limited numbers.
It came as the PM was due to confirm that outdoor grassroots sport would be able to return, and gyms could reopen again after the lockdown is lifted.
MPs were furious that outdoor activities – where there is less possibility of spreading coronavirus – had been banned.
The expansion of mass testing has also boosted hopes fans could return to stadiums soon.
Restrictions will be a blow for bigger clubs who normally get five figure gates.
But for a number of smaller clubs, the re-opening, even on a reduced scale, of their main income stream will be a massive boost.
Many clubs in the lower leagues have been on the verge of going out of business, with bail outs having already been required to keep them going.
Prem clubs, who were still awaiting details, will be less impressed.
FIRST ROUND OF PREMIER LEAGUE FIXTURES AFTER RULE CHANGE
THE first round of Premier League fixtures after the change of rules on December 2 will be over the weekend of December 5/6.
Exact kick-off times and dates have yet to be confirmed.
Aston Villa vs Newcastle United
Brighton vs Southampton
Burnley vs Everton
Chelsea vs Leeds United
Liverpool vs Wolves
Manchester City vs Fulham
Sheffield United vs Leicester City
Tottenham vs Arsenal
West Brom vs Crystal Palace
West Ham vs Manchester United
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy announced earlier today that his club face a £150m loss for this season if fans remain shut out for the entire campaign.
But allowing just 2,000 fans in Tottenham’s 62,000-capacity stadium might make it more expensive to re-open than to keep the ground shut out until that maximum attendance number is bigger.
Only home fans would be allowed in, subject to social distancing regulations, while it is expected supporters will have to have an “electronic passport” confirming they are infection-free.
Club chiefs have been been begging for a change of Government stance since the initial lockdown in March.
Trials of up to 2,000 supporters took place earlier in the autumn ahead of a potential October 2 national roll-out.
But that was canned as the second wave of the virus hit, before the ongoing second lockdown began earlier this month.
Now it seems the Government is keen to show that a return to “normality” is possible, and allowing fans back into sporting events will be a significant milestone.
Nevertheless, clubs are in the dark over exactly what it will mean and are scrambling for as much information as possible.
But for fans and clubs in the lower tiers, as well as the National League, the news will be a genuine lifeline and perhaps the key to their financial survival.
Premier League chiefs are also hoping that the rollout of mass tests will mean that people can get back to the beautiful game in the near future.
New rapid result tests – which provide a result in under 30 minutes – could be taken by fans on the day before they are allowed in.
They could show proof of their negative test and be allowed to sit in the stands.
The rapid result tests have been piloted in Liverpool, and given to people with symptoms and without to try and track down cases of the virus.
They will be expanded across the nation to try and crack down on asymptomatic cases and isolate them.
The quicker tests are also expected to be used to scrap the isolation period too, it was reported today.
People who were close contacts of a positive Covid case will be offered daily testing, which if it is negative will allow the person to continue life as normal.
Only if it's positive will they have to self-isolate, meaning people can ditch 14 days of staying at home.
The idea is being trialled in Liverpool and will be rolled out to the NHS and the rest of the nation in the new year if it's successful.
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