Premier League clubs are preparing to allow up to 10,000 fans into stadiums after the government confirmed an easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday afternoon that supporters would be allowed back into stadiums in England from May 17.
There have been no fans at Premier League matches since December, when up to 2,000 people were allowed at a limited number of grounds before the second wave forced games to go fully behind closed doors once again.
However, in a press conference in which he confirmed the next stage of easing restrictions, Johnson confirmed that supporters will be able to return next week.
“We’ll unlock the turnstiles of our sports stadia, subject to capacity limits,” he said.
Under the new rules, up to 10,000 fans or 25 per cent capacity, whichever figure is lower, will be allowed at larger outdoor venues, like the majority of Premier League stadiums.
Meanwhile, smaller outdoor venues will be capped at 4,000 or 50 per cent capacity.
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The decision follows the announcement of zero coronavirus deaths in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland on Monday and successful trial events in sport in recent months.
The UK’s coronavirus alert level has now been lowered from four to three, which means that although the virus is still in general circulation, transmission is no longer high or rising exponentially.
That is good news for supporters of Premier League clubs, who could now be allowed to watch their team in the flesh before the end of the season.
Only home fans will be permitted to attend matches over the final two rounds of the season, but every team will have one home match over the last two weeks of the campaign.
Matchweek 37 will be played on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday May 19, with all the final round matches then kicking off at 4pm on Sunday May 23.
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“Following consultation with clubs, it was agreed matches would not be open to away supporters due to varying operational challenges across the league and the need to deliver a consistent approach, while maximising the opportunity for home-fan attendance,” a Premier League statement said last week.
Pilot events like the Carabao Cup final at Wembley Stadium on April 25, when Manchester City and Tottenham each had 2,000 fans in attendance, have proven it is possible for fans to attend matches safely.
Snooker was the first sport to welcome back a capacity crowd, when 980 fans attended the final day of the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible last week.
Meanwhile, 21,000 fans are expected to attend Saturday’s FA Cup final between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley.