Manchester United are among 10 Premier League teams who will not be permitted to have supporters in attendance for games starting from next Wednesday after the announcement of the latest three-tier system.
Sport has been played behind closed doors since March, though the government announced fans will be allowed to return to live events in limited numbers starting from December 2.
In tier one areas – which is considered at medium risk – up to 4,000 fans will be allowed into stadiums, while that figure drops to 2,000 in tier two areas; in tier three areas which is considered at very high risk – attending live events is banned completely.
And, half of the clubs in the Premier League are located in areas which are placed under tier three rules and are they are unable to allow supporters back at their venues.
This means Manchester United, Manchester City, Leicester City, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Wolves, West Brom, Burnley, Leeds and Sheffield will continue their football without fans for the foreseeable future.
West Ham United, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, Southampton and Brighton are all in the tier two areas, which permits only 2,000 fans to attend their games.
Fans will have to adhere to strict Covid-19 guidelines in stadiums and may even be ordered not to sing, shout or drink alcohol.
While the return of supporters to stadiums has been welcomed, Gary Neville was more sceptical, saying: ‘So some clubs will have fans backing them in home fixtures and others will have empty stadiums with no fans! Unfair competition or not?’
‘Our ambition remains to work with Government to increase attendance to more substantial levels. Until this can be done, many fans will be unable to attend games and our clubs will continue to operate matches at a financial loss,’ said the Premier League in a statement this week.
‘Our priority continues to be the agreement of a roadmap, with DCMS and the Sports Technology and Innovation Group, for pilot events that can help our clubs quickly scale up to larger capacities in line with the Sports Ground Safety Authority’s COVID-secure guidelines and beyond.
‘Premier League clubs have a proven track record of achieving high-biosecurity standards and we believe we can play a significant role in the Government’s rapid turnaround testing initiative. We look forward to working with Government on their next steps.’