Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Opinion: Let Us In – An Update

Posted on 4 December 2020 by Maria Grech

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Two weeks ago, we asked whether fans should be allowed to return to stadiums to watch sporting events. Since the article was published, the British Government released a statement on the decision to allow fans to return to stadiums.

From 2nd December, a maximum of 4,000 fans will be permitted to watch their team play in areas of the country classified as Tier 1, and a maximum of 2,000 in Tier 2.

Given that Tier 1 only covers the sparsely populated Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles, the magic number for Premier League clubs is 2,000 fans.

This is an exciting time for lovers of sport, because after nine months, the British public will finally be allowed to watch their team live.

But the new decision poses two key questions: Is 2,000 spectators enough when stadiums have a much bigger capacity? And with fans having waited months to return to venues, how do clubs pick who are the lucky 2,000 to be allowed into venues?

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, tweeted this:

Owners of larger venues believe that they can hold larger capacities while still maintaining social distancing. And crowd management firm ONHYS say that 38,000 people could be housed safely at Wembley Stadium, and that this is backed by scientific research. 

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How will ONHYS do this?

ONHYS  believe that they can by introducing specialised measures to manage the control of pedestrians, organising different pedestrian flows around entrance gates, and enforcing the use of face coverings, stadiums could host half of their capacity while decreasing the likelihood of infection by 95%.

According to the findings, by taking these steps to limit the spread of the virus, Wembley could manage 38,000 visitors through its entrances, while reducing the R-rate to 0.11. As a point of comparison, the R-rate in the general population is between 1 and 1.2.

Which Premier League grounds can fans go to?

In the Premier League, the only clubs which are allowed to let fans back into stadiums are:

  • Arsenal; 
  • Brighton;
  • Chelsea;
  • Crystal Palace;
  • Everton;
  • Fulham;
  • Liverpool; 
  • Southampton;
  • Tottenham Hotspur;
  • and West Ham

When the tiers were announced by the government, most of the country was put in Tier 3 which means many clubs in the North and the Midlands will not be seeing any fans return.

The Liverpool and London clubs will see 2,000 fans return as they have been placed in Tier 2. 

Many have questioned the logic of clubs in London being allowed fans in, even though London currently has a higher infection rate than places like Manchester. Many believe this decision might have something to do with class.

This may be the case, but with Christmas fast approaching, the decision will be sure to bring festive joy to the six London clubs who are allowed to have their fans back in.

Clubs will find it tricky to decide the chosen 2,000 fans who will return to the stadium. Everton have been quick to decide they will do so via a ballot system. 

Those who are season ticket holders will be allowed to enter the ballot if they wish to go to an upcoming game. From those who enter the ballot, the lucky 2,000 people will be picked at random.

 In Scotland, the Scottish Government has decided against allowing fans to return at all. This has left many Scottish fans confused as they have similar infection rates to England.

Although there are no plans in Scotland for fans to return, fans north of the border will hope that the Scottish Government follow in the footsteps of England and get fans back into stadiums as soon as possible.