Fans set to head back to Brighton, Crawley, Eastbourne Borough and Lewes

Fans are to be allowed back into sport stadiums and other outdoor events - and in greater numbers than many thought would be allowed.

Brighton and Burnley played in front of empty stands recently - but it looks like some fans will be allowed back into the Amex soon / Picture: Getty
Brighton and Burnley played in front of empty stands recently - but it looks like some fans will be allowed back into the Amex soon / Picture: Getty

A maximum of 4,000 fans are set to be allowed at outdoor events in the lowest-risk areas when the national lockdown in England ends on December 2.

Grassroots sport is also coming back - which will bring a sigh of relief from those involved in non-league football and other local adult and junior sport.

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The government will rule later this week on which areas are deemed low-risk and which go into higher tiers - and that will be key to what will and will not be permitted in different locations. But there are high hopes Sussex will remain in tier one, the lowest catergory for restrictions.

MPs will vote on it later in the week.

PM Boris Johnson said: "In tiers one and two, spectator sports and business events 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, especially the over-60s. Also, [it will involve] looking at the rate at which cases are rising or falling, the percentage of those tested in a local population who have Covid and current and projected pressures on the NHS."

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "This is a big step forward for sport. Bringing grassroots sport back was my number one 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."

Today's news is welcome for many clubs at elite level whose seasons so far have been in front of empty stands.

Sussex has four 'elite' football teams - Brighton of the Premier League, Crawley of League Two, Eastbourne Borough of National League South and Lewes, of the FA Women's Championship.

None has been allowed any fans since the start of the season - though the Seagulls did admit a small crowd for a friendly v Chelsea, a test event for crowds returning to stadiums which came before the government pulled back on the idea.

Up to 2,000 fans will be allowed in tier two areas but no fans will be allowed in tier three.

Numbers permitted will be less at smaller grounds - with 50 per cent of the capacity the maximum allowed. For example Eastbourne's Priory Lane ground has a capacity of around 4,150 - meaning they will be allowed 2,075 fans if Sussex remains in tier one.

Away from football, sports including rugby and horse racing will be keenly monitoring the details of the new rules in the hope of welcoming crowds back soon.

Elite sport has continued behind closed doors during England's four-week lockdown, but grassroots and amateur sport has been halted since November 5.