Brighton chief reacts as 4,000 fans could be back in the Amex for Southampton clash
Football and rugby bosses welcomed the Government’s decision to allow a limited number of spectators back into venues in lower-risk areas when the second national lockdown ends next week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined plans for a return to a regionalised tier system from December 2 to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Outdoor venues in tier one areas – those considered lowest risk – will be permitted to admit up to 4,000 spectators to an event or allow 50 per cent capacity, whichever is lower.
Outdoor venues in tier two would be permitted to admit up to 2,000 fans or 50 per cent capacity, whichever is lower, while the caps were 2,000 and 1,000 respectively for indoor venues in tiers one and two.
It means Brighton could welcome 4,000 fans to the Amex Stadium when Southampton on December 5.
Brighton chief executive Paul Barber said: "We welcome the news and it is a positive step in the right direction, but I believe I echo the thoughts of a number of clubs in saying we hope this will be the first step on a road towards opening up to bigger crowds in a safe and secure way.
"Subject to confirmation of each region's tier status, the new arrangements will apply to Premier League matches from Round 11 (Friday 4 December) onwards.
"This doesn't leave us much time, but as outlined above we are waiting on much of the detail. So, we ask supporters to be patient in terms of the finer points and details around ticketing and exactly how many tickets will be available."
The English Football League, whose clubs have been hit hard by the loss of matchday revenue since March, also welcomed the decision.
“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,” a statement from the league read.
Clarity is expected over which areas will be placed into the respective tiers on Thursday.
Spectators had been set to return to sports venues on a limited, socially distanced basis from October 1, with venues preparing to go as high as one-third of full capacity.
However, a rise in coronavirus infections led the Government to pause those plans, with hopes receding still further when the country entered a second national lockdown earlier this month amid fears the NHS could be overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases.
The Premier League is also pleased to see the return of fans, but urged the Government to work on pilot events to increase capacities still further.
“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,” a statement read.
“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.”