The UK government has announced its plans to end the second lockdown which will see fans beginning to return to the stadia across the tiers. We take a look at what this entails.
WHAT’S THE UPDATE
The British government has announced it would be ending the country’s second lockdown and gradually move things back to normality. This would also see the fans allowed back in the stadia in a limited, regulated capacity.
The first matches to be played in front of fans will be held across the EFL tiers on Wednesday, December 2. In the Premier League, West Ham’s home fixture against Manchester United on Saturday, December 5 will be the first game with fans in attendance since Leicester City’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa back on March 9.
HOW WILL IT BE REGULATED
The UK government has divided the regions across the country into three tiers based on the population density and rate of infection: Tier 1 zones being the least infected and Tier 3 being the most infected.
Clubs residing in Tier 1 can have a maximum of 4,000 fans inside their stadia, as long as the stadium is big enough to incorporate proper social distancing protocols, lest a lower number of the people will be allowed. Similarly, Tier 2 clubs can have a maximum of 2,000 fans, but Tier 3 clubs will have to wait to welcome fans back as they’re mandated to continue playing behind closed door. The UK government will be closely monitoring the situation across the three tiers and change their status every two weeks, should need be.
At the time of writing, there are no Tier 1 clubs in the Premier League. In fact, the clubs are evenly divided between Tiers 2 and 3.
Tier 2 Premier League Clubs (Maximum 2,000 fans)
Arsenal, Brighton & Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United.
Tier 3 Premier League Clubs (No fans)
Aston Villa, Burnley, Leeds United, Leicester City, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion, and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
At the moment, this is not a financially viable decision. Of course, the clubs have taken quite a hit with no fans in the stadia, especially the ones lower down the leagues with little to no reliance on broadcast revenue, but the number of people allowed right now will not make up for the amount of money that will be needed to reinstate the stewards, catering, cleaning and other services, even for a small fraction of the public. In that regard, some Tier 3 clubs might even be feeling lucky to not have to expend money from the beginning of this process. Regardless, that doesn’t mean that this decision is not an optimistic one.
The Pandemic has forced all of us into a lifestyle we could not have ever possibly imagined merely months before everything shut down. Football without fans has been a far cry from the spectacle we are used to cherish. The big-money imperatives did bring the football back on our TV screens, but that shouldn’t make us forget the gloomy reality we are currently a part of. Moreover, other countries that brought their fans back in the grounds a few months ago, did so by gradually increasing the numbers, only and only if it was deemed viable enough keeping in the mind the health concerns. On that note, bringing back the fans in the UK was always going to be a gradual process that would have to begin with a small step. This is that small step. It might not make the clubs profit right now, but it’s a step in the right direction.
On the pitch, the discrepancy in the availability of fans in the stands will affect different teams’ performances differently, which has garnered some debate, but nothing substantial enough to not accept the fact that it’s a small price to pay to pave way for the return of normalcy.
At the end of the day, it’s good news, especially for the British public who had to go through another major lockdown recently. For us, the global spectators, it takes us one step closer to the return of the grandeur of the Premier League, and by extension, football. Hopefully, we could see and hear the stadia reverberating with emotions sooner rather than later.