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England to allow limited number of fans back into stadiums starting in December

Supporters in some areas of England will be allowed to return to football stadiums next month under plans announced by the UK Government.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed the government’s latest set of measures designed to limit the spread of Covid-19 on Monday, offering a look at what the plan will be for football supporters going forward.

He confirmed that the four-week national lockdown in England will end on Wednesday December 2 and will be replaced by a new three-tiered system.

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The number of supporters allowed into stadiums, if any, will depend on what tier a club’s stadium is placed in.

Stadiums in areas placed in tier 1 will be permitted to hold 4,000 socially distanced fans or half of their maximum capacity, whichever is fewer.

The venues listed in areas placed in tier 2 will be able to hold 2,000 socially distanced fans orhalf of their maximum capacity, whichever is fewer.

And then stadiums in areas placed in tier 3 will have to continue to hold events behind closed doors.

The government is expected to announce what tiers each area will be placed in on Thursday.

"Fans have been greatly missed at Premier League matches and therefore we welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement today regarding the return of supporters for the first time since March, albeit at small numbers," the Premier League said in a statement.

"Our ambition remains to work with Government to increase attendance to more substantial levels. Until this can be done, many fans will be unable to attend games and our clubs will continue to operate matches at a financial loss. 

"Our priority continues to be the agreement of a roadmap, with DCMS and the Sports Technology and Innovation Group, for pilot events that can help our clubs quickly scale up to larger capacities in line with the Sports Ground Safety Authority’s COVID-secure guidelines and beyond.   

"Premier League clubs have a proven track record of achieving high-biosecurity standards and we believe we can play a significant role in the Government’s rapid turnaround testing initiative. 

"We look forward to working with Government on their next steps."

Supporters have been unable to attend football matches in England since the top levels of the sport were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Professional football was able to return in June, but behind closed doors.

Several test events were able to take place in September with a view of allowing fans back in on a regular basis at the start of October, but those plans were postponed when a sharp rise in infections forced the government to re-impose tighter restrictions.

The news will be of great relief to clubs, particularly those in the lower leagues, who have struggled financially in the absence of match-going supporters.

In a statement, the English Football League (EFL) said it welcomed the announcement.

“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," read the statement.

The first matches with supporters back in stadiums are likely to take place on Wednesday December 2, with 13 matches scheduled to take place across the EFL.

Manchester United are also in Champions League action against Paris Saint-Germain, with Arsenal hosting Rapid Vienna in the Europa League the following day.