Stadiums in tier 1 will be permitted to hold up to 4,000 spectators; grounds in tier 2 can welcome up to 2,000 fans; grounds in tier 3 must continue to hold events behind closed doors; outdoor grassroots sport also allowed to resume in England
Monday 23 November 2020 18:21, UK
Supporters will be permitted to attend events in stadiums in England when the national lockdown ends on December 2, says Boris Johnson.
The decision will provide a major boost to governing bodies, which have been forced to postpone events or hold them behind closed doors during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as individual clubs that have been trying to survive without revenue from ticket sales.
Outdoors stadiums in tier 1 areas - deemed to be medium risk by the Government - will be allowed to hold up to 4,000 socially-distanced fans or half of their maximum capacity, depending on which is fewer.
Outdoor stadiums in tier 2 areas - viewed to be high risk - can welcome up to 2,000 spectators or half of their maximum capacity, depending on which is fewer.
Indoors stadiums in tiers 1 and 2 will be allowed to host up to 1,000 fans or half of their maximum capacity, depending on which is fewer.
But both indoor and outdoors stadiums in tier 3 areas - seen as very high risk - will have to continue to hold events behind closed doors.
The Prime Minister warned, however, the Government's coronavirus tier system will be strengthened when the national lockdown ends on December 2, meaning more areas will fall into higher tiers than previously.
During a virtual statement regarding England's exit from its national lockdown to the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon, the Prime Minister said: "The hard truth is that we are not there yet. We must get through winter without the virus spreading out of control. Our winter plan is designed to carry us safely to spring.
"I can confirm that the national restrictions will end on December 2 and they will not be renewed. Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume and shops, personal care and the wider leisure sector can reopen.
"In tiers 1 and 2, spectator sports will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing. Later this week, we will announce which areas will fall into which tier - I hope on Thursday - based on analysis of cases in all age groups and the rate of which cases are rising or falling.
"I'm sorry to say we expect more regions will fall, at least temporarily, into higher levels than before.
"2020 has been a tragic year - winter will be hard - but we have turned a corner and an escape route is in sight. We must hold tight and pull together for one final push to the spring."
In an official statement issued via the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "This is a big step forward for sport.
"Bringing grassroots sport back was my No 1 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."
A statement from the English Football League (EFL) welcomed the news and added: "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.
"Having worked closely in developing the appropriate safety guidance 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."
The Government's announcement was also greeted positively by Premiership Rugby chief executive Darren Childs, who said: "Today's announcement is another welcome boost for Premiership Rugby clubs and the wider sports sector.
"Our clubs have proved that, when it is safe to do so, they can bring fans back safely, with very successful pilot events at Harlequins and Gloucester.
"We won't know the exact impact on our clubs until the tiers are announced on Thursday, so my team stands ready to work with Government to tackle the challenges of fan attendance in a way that minimises health risks."
The Lawn Tennis Association also responded, saying: "We argued for more tennis to be permitted indoors across the tiers and it's good news that despite certain restrictions, the Government has listened to the arguments we put forward.
"More people will be able to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of tennis this winter, but we will continue to engage with Government as we know this remains a very challenging time for indoor centres and the coaches and officials who depend on them over the winter."
Outdoor grassroots sport will be allowed to resume in England when the national lockdown ends.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the news in a virtual statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, outlining plans for a relaxation of restrictions from December 2.
Outdoor sport for all ages will be permitted, even in areas most affected by the Government's Covid-19 tier system.
This will include golf courses, tennis courts and football clubs - and gyms will also be able to re-open.
Grassroots and amateur sport has been suspended since November 5.