Sporting events - including major internationals and Premier League games - will soon see the return of fans, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed on Monday.
Areas of the country deemed to be low-risk regions in the Covid-19 pandemic will be allowed to welcome back 4,000 fans into outdoor stadiums in December.
Johnson laid out his new tiered proposal for when England exits lockdown on December 2; Tier 3 areas of the country will still be barred from allowing fans into stadiums, but Tier 1 regions will be allowed attendances of up to 4,000. Tier 2 will be permitted up to 2,000 supporters.
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Steven Swinford of the Times breaks it down:
Johnson said clarification of which regions fall into which tiers will arrive on Thursday:
"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," Johnson said.
"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."
The new ruling will be something of a lifeline for sports organisations across the country, most of whom have not had any fans in their stadiums since mid-March. Match day revenue has plummeted across the board, taking away a major source of revenue.
In football, Tottenham announced earlier on Monday losses of £63.9 million for the year ending June, 2020. The club, by contrast, had made a profit of £68.6 million in the previous year.
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Spurs chairman Daniel Levy spoke of the importance of getting supporters back into stadiums:
"We are currently in the midst of one of the most challenging times ever experienced," Levy said. "The impact of the pandemic on our revenue is material and could not have come at a worse time, having just completed a £1.2bn stadium build which is financed by club resources and long-term debt.
"The 2020/21 season has so far seen no fans at games and this is compounded by a loss of third party events such as NFL, concerts, the closure of stores and visitor attractions.
Our estimate for the current financial year of the potential loss of revenue, should the stadium remain closed to fans, is in excess of £150m. Clearly this would be an irrecoverable loss of income.
Daniel Levy will be expected to set out a plan
Image credit: PA Sport
The proposed new tiered system won’t immediately provide relief to all. Teams in Liverpool and Manchester, for example, potentially find themselves remaining in Tier 3 restrictions, meaning a full ban on spectators remains in place.
Based on the tiers as outlined going into lockdown, London teams might find themselves in Tier 2, allowing for a partial return of 2,000 fans for each home game. As Rob Harris of the Press Association highlights, this could bring its own logistical nightmare:
The presence of fans – and therefore gate receipts – will be timely for the likes of Tottenham, who head into London derbies with Chelsea and Arsenal in their next two Premier League fixtures.
However, the impact will be felt throughout the sporting sphere. The government recently announced a £300 million 'winter survival' package to be dispersed across multiple sports, earmarking £135 million for rugby union, £40 million for horse racing and £5 million for tennis.
That was viewed as a short-term bandage on the issue, so Monday's proposal will provide a first step back towards a return to full gate receipts in 2021.
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