LONDON: Spectators are set to return to sports venues next month as coronavirus restrictions are eased in areas with lower infection rates.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that outdoor and indoor venues in tier 1 and 2 areas would be allowed to admit spectators on a limited basis.
Johnson said in a statement to the House of Commons: “Spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.”
He did not confirm the capacity limits or percentages, but culture Secretary Oliver Dowden later outlined in a tweet that 4,000 spectators or 50 per cent capacity limits – whichever is lowest – would be in place in tier 1, dropping to 2,000 or 50 per cent for indoor venues, while in tier 2 it will be 2,000 outdoors and 1,000 indoors, or 50 per cent capacity.
Dowden wrote on Twitter: “Sports fans back in stadia from 2nd Dec 4K or 50% of capacity in Tier 1, 2K or 50% of capacity in Tier 2.
“A big step forward for fans as we work towards fuller capacities.
“Thanks to pilot hosts & fans for showing this can be done safely.”
Johnson also said outdoor grassroots sports and indoor sports facilities like gyms would be able to reopen.
Spectators had been due to be allowed to return to stadiums from October 1 but the Government pressed pause on that decision due to a rise in infections nationwide.
Dowden said last week there was “definitely a chance” of some venues being able to reopen on a limited basis by Christmas in the areas with the lowest infection rates.
Last Thursday the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a £300million ‘Winter Survival Package’ of loans and grants to sports which are facing financial losses as a result of the absence of fans from stadiums.
Grassroots sport had been forced to pause since November 5 when the second lockdown came into force, a decision which led to protests and even parliamentary debates over whether certain activities and pastimes should be made exempt.
Dowden tweeted on Monday afternoon: “Grassroots sport back on to help the nation stay fit & healthy.
“Gyms open & amateur sport back on in all areas. Kids team sport open in all areas.
“Some mitigations for high contact sports & adults sport indoors.”