Up to 4,000 spectators will be allowed to attend outdoor elite sports events in the lowest-risk tier one areas of England when a month-long national lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19 is lifted on December 2, the British government said on Monday.
As part of new COVID-19 restrictions, 2,000 fans or 50% of a stadium's capacity - whichever is lower - can attend sporting events in tier two areas but none can do so in tier three areas, Britain's Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement.
English Premier League matches have continued behind closed doors during the second lockdown announced on November 1. Supporters have not been allowed into sporting venues since the first lockdown was announced in March, barring a few exceptions.
"I can confirm the national restrictions will end on Dec. 2 ... People can leave their home, subject to the rule of six," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement to the House of Commons.
"Wedding services, outdoor sports can resume. Leisure can resume. Sports will be able to resume inside in tier one and two with measures on social distancing.
"Enforcement will be strengthened with new powers to close down premises that pose a risk to public health."
Members of Parliament are set to cast a vote on plans before they are confirmed and the government will announce on Thursday which areas will go into which tier.
Indoor sport and physical activity will also resume but with some restrictions on activities due to the higher transmission risk of the novel coronavirus.
Organised grassroots sport will resume from December 2 and gyms and leisure centres will be able to reopen across all tiers.
"This is a big step forward for sport. Bringing grassroots sport back was my number one priority," Dowden said.
"I'm confident sports will take every step to ensure their fans are safe, and fans will play their part and look out for each other until we can safely get everyone back in."
The Premier League welcomed the move but said it hoped to quickly move to bigger capacities.
Premier League on Tuesday welcomed the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement on the return of fans into the stadiums.
"Fans have been greatly missed at Premier League matches and therefore we welcome the Prime Minister's announcement today regarding the return of supporters for the first time since March, albeit at small numbers," Premier League said in a statement.
"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." it said.
"Our priority continues to be the agreement of a roadmap, with DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) 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," it added.
The statement further stated that Premier League clubs have a proven track record of "achieving high-biosecurity standards" and they believe they can play a "significant role" in the government's rapid turnaround testing initiative.
"We look forward to working with Government on their next steps," the statement concluded.
The Football League (EFL), which organises football in the Championship and lower two divisions, was also encouraged.
“Whilst today’s news is subject to regional restrictions, it is an important step in achieving a return to normal, alongside it being crucial to addressing the significant revenue gap left by a lack of spectators and other revenue streams as a result of the pandemic," the league said.
Wolves substitute Neto salvages 1-1 draw with Southampton
Wolverhampton Wanderers' Pedro Neto came off the bench to cancel out a Theo Walcott strike for high-flying Southampton as the two sides battled to an entertaining 1-1 draw in their Premier League clash at the Molineux Stadium on Monday.
With defender Conor Coady's run of 119 consecutive league games for Wolves brought to an end when he was ruled out due to a close contact testing positive for COVID-19, the hosts looked shaky in defence as they shifted formation to a flat back four.
However, it was Southampton's Alex McCarthy who was the busier of the two goalkeepers and he made a fantastic double-save from Nelson Semedo and Leander Dendoncker to keep the game scoreless at the break.
With Danny Ings out injured, Walcott played as a striker alongside Che Adams and it paid off when he rattled home a Che Adams centre in the 58th minute to score his first goal for the club where he started his career since January 2006.
"It was a very tidy finish in the end, Che gave me the assist, I was pleased with my goal. It feels like a win, they play some fantastic football and it's a really good point," Walcott told Sky Sports following the final whistle.
The ex-Arsenal man spurned a great chance to make it 2-0 six minutes later and it was to prove costly as Wolves fought back, Raul Jimenez striking a post in the 75th after good work by Joao Moutinho before Neto reacted quickest to slam the ball home.
The home side had the better chances but there were no more goals and the stalemate leaves Southampton fifth on 17 points, three behind pacesetters Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, while Wolves rise to ninth on 14 points after nine games.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was happy with a point.
"We try to be solid and we managed that. Let's see if we play a back four again, (but) that's not the point. We should analyse what we have and try to improve it," he told Sky Sports.
Southampton's good start to the campaign and Walcott getting on the scoresheet in the Premier League for the 14th straight season appears to have whetted the forward's appetite for more.
"A lot of teams won't want to play against us. We have trust as a unit, we want to play together and that's the way we are. We want to win games," added the 31-year-old.
Zaha misses clash against Burnley due to positive coronavirus test
Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha missed the club's English Premier League clash against Burnley after testing positive for coronavirus.
Crystal Palace lost 1-0 to Burnley on Monday.
While confirming the positive result of Zaha, Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson said the player is "not feeling particularly ill".
"He has tested positive unfortunately for coronavirus so is self-isolating, and is awaiting the results of the next test. He is not feeling particularly ill, but unfortunately, the test proved [positive], and he is following the procedures," the club's official website quoted Hodgson as saying prior to kick-off.
Michy Batshuayi was named in the squad, replacing Zaha.