Arsenal will be among the first football clubs whose fans will be allowed to return to stadiums for matches next week, but Manchester United will miss out, following the announcement of a new regional tier system today.
Liverpool will also be in the first wave of top tier matches allowed to admit spectators.
Football and other elite sports, including rugby and horse racing, are now scrambling to be ready to welcome spectators, which will be the first time for many since the coronavirus pandemic swept Britain and forced the first national locdown in March.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has revealed in the House of Commons which tier each area of England has been placed in as part of the new regional restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, which come into force on Wednesday December 2.
Elite sport clubs and venues have been waiting to find out if they can allow fans next week
Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed which tier each area of England has been placed in
The government had already said that elite sports events would be allowed to admit spectators for the first time in more than eight months, if they are in areas where infection rates are low.
Under the rules, which come into force following the end of the latest period of national lockdown, events in tier one areas will be allowed up to 4,000 fans, in tier two it will be up to 2,000, but no supporters will be allowed at events in tier three.
The government’s regional tier system dictates if sports venues can let specators back in
Premier League Fixtures Dec 5-6-7
Saturday 5 December
12:30 Burnley v Everton (BT Sport)
15:00 Man City v Fulham (BT Sport)
17:30 West Ham v Man Utd (Sky Sports) with fans
20:00 Chelsea v Leeds Utd (Sky Sports) with fans
Sunday 6 December
12:00 West Brom v Crystal Palace (Sky Sports)
14:15 Sheffield Utd v Leicester City (Sky Sports)
16:30 Spurs v Arsenal (Sky Sports) with fans
19:15 Liverpool v Wolves (Amazon Prime Video) with fans
Monday 7 December
20:00 Brighton v Southampton (Sky Sports) with fans
It remains to be seen if all clubs entitled to admit fans will choose to do so, given the costs of staging a match. Most games in bigger stadiums will make a loss. Premier League teams need around 10,000 supporters in the ground to break even.
Where fans will return
The FIVE Premier League matches that will be allowed to host 2,000 fans on the weekend of December 5 and 6 are:
Tottenham v Arsenal
Liverpool v Wolves
Chelsea v Leeds
West Ham v Man United
Brighton v Southampton
Today’s announcement places Manchester in tier three, which means Manchester United fans will not be allowed to attend their club’s Champions League group match against Paris Saint Germain at Old Trafford on December 2.
The club, which has previously said it belives it can safely host 23,500 supporters, issued a statement after the city’s tier three status was confirmed.
‘Our plans for safely welcoming back fans to Old Trafford are well advanced and we look forward to doing so as soon as we are given the go ahead,’ said a spokesman.
‘We will continue to work with local authorities on finalising our plans so that we can move quickly when our area comes out of Tier 3.
‘We thank our fans for their continued patience and will keep them informed of further developments.’
However, since London is in tier two, the rules will allow up to 2,000 Arsenal supporters to attend their Europa League tie against Rapid Vienna at the Emirates on Thursday December 3.
Arsenal have confirmed their intention for a crowd to be in attendance.
Arsenal have confirmed they’ll welcome 2,000 fans to their Europa League clash with Vienna
«We’re delighted to confirm that we will be safely welcoming 2,000 supporters to our Europa League home match against Rapid Vienna on Thursday, December 3,» a club statement read.
«It’s been almost nine long months since we had fans in attendance at Emirates Stadium and our matches have simply not been the same without you.
«While we appreciate that reduced capacity matches will be far from being ‘back to normal’, we can’t wait to welcome our fans back home for what will be a historic moment for the club.
«This follows the UK Government announcement that Emirates Stadium is located in a Tier 2 area under the latest COVID-19 guidelines.»
And Liverpool will welcome 2,000 supporters for their game with Wolves on Saturday December 5 after the government listened to the city’s pleas to be placed in tier two.
Fans have been desperate to return to matches in the Premier League and EFL
Other Premier League matches in tier two areas during that weekend, which will be allowed to have 2,000 fans in the stadium, include, West Ham-Manchester United, Tottenham-Arsenal, Brighton-Southampton and Chelsea-Leeds,
Premier League Tiers
Premier League football clubs in tier two areas, which can host 2,000 fans:
Clubs in tier three areas, where fans can still not attend:
Sportsmail understands that West Ham, Tottenham, Brighton and Chelsea are all set to welcome fans at these games.
The first Premier League fixture to be played with fans present will be West Ham-Manchester United, which kicks off at the London Stadium at 5.30pm on Saturday December 5.
The clubs are preparing to communicate with fans over ticketing arrangements, but they all face a challenge in managing expectations since inevitably many long-standing supporters will be disapppointed.
However, Manchester-City-Fulham, Burnley-Everton, Aston Villa-Newcastle, West Brom-Crystal Palace and Sheffield-United-Leicester will not be allowed to open the turnstiles.
The Premier League is yet to confirm the scheduling for matches to be played over the weekend of December 5 and 6.
There are no professional football clubs in any areas placed in tier one, which includes, Cornwall, Scilly Isles and the Isle of Wight.
There is an extensive EFL programme of fixtures on Wednesday, but given many areas have been designated by government as tier three, many will still not be allowed fans.
The EFL has decided not to reschedule matches due to be played on Tuesday December 1 and move them to Wednesday in order to allow spectators to attend, if the games are are in a tier two area.
Of the matches already scheduled for Wednesday, only the games at Luton and Wycombe will be allowed to open for 2,000 fans in the Championship; those at Middlesborough, Blackburn, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest will continue to be played behind closed doors.
In League One, Charlton and Shrewsbury will be able to welcome fans on Wednesday, but Bristol Rovers and Hull will not.
In League Two on Wednesday,, Cambridge and Carlisle can admit fans up 2,000, but Walsall cannot.
Cambridge United are looking forward to hosting their fans for the visit of Mansfield Town.
Cambridge United held a test event in September when they played Fulham U21
In fact, their first three home games are against teams in tier three areas, the other two being Oldham and Gillingham, who will not benefit from fans at their own grounds.
Chief Executive Ian Mather said the club, which hosted a test event against Fulham U21 in the EFL Trophy in September, can only accommodate around 2,000 socially-distanced fans and their planning is well advanced.
‘Emotionally, it’s great,’ said Mather, whose Twitter feed ‘exploded’ with enthusiastic supporters’ comments as soon as the announcement was made. ‘Football is nothing without fans and our fans have been really supportive.’
The club is looking forward to hosting 2,000 fans for the visit of Mansfield Town
However, the matches will be staged at a loss, since 1,535 of the fans will be season-ticket holders, who have already paid and there are additional costs to the game, including a high ratio of stewards, hiring portable toilets and a reduction in iFollow subscriptions.
On the issue of fairness, Mather acknowledges his team may gain a slight edge.
‘Arguably, it gives us an advantage,’ he said. ‘But you have to start somewhere. If you don’t get fans back when you can, you miss an opportunity.’
In addition, racing is scheduled to take place on Wednesday at Haydock Park on Merseyside, Kempton Park and Lingfield in Surrey, and Ludlow in Shropshire. Up to 2,000 spectators will be allowed, under the rules, to attend all of these events.
Haydock Park is hoping to host 2,000 race-goers for a meeting on Wednesday December 2
On Thursday, however, only the meet at Chelmsford in Essex will be in a position to accept 2,000 race-goers, Leicester and Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, which are also hosting meetings, are both in tier three and therefore no fans will be allowed.
In rugby union, Bristol are due to host Northampton Saints at Ashton Gate on Friday December 4, but since the city is placed in a tier three area, no fans will be allowed. Ashton Gate has worked hard to create a robust system for fans return, but the venue, which also hosts Bristol City will have to wait before supporters can watch live sport.
The finals of the Autumn Nations Cup are taking place over the same weekend, with England set to play at Twickenham on Sunday December 6. It is expected that at least 1,000 supporters will be permitted to attend.
Today’s announcement means 1,000 fans will be allowed for indoor sports events, including Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev on December 12 in London.
HOW FANS WILL RETURN IN DIFFERENT AREAS
4,000 spectators/ 50% capacity for outdoor events, whichever is lower, and 2,000/ 50% capacity for indoor
2,000 spectators/50% capacity outdoors, whichever is lower, and 1,000/ 50% indoors
Ban on spectators remains
The onerous tiered system which the Prime Minister has said will remain in place until March 31