Around 10,000 masked football fans were allowed to take their places at sports venues in London, Carlisle, Shrewsbury and Cambridge when England left its four-week embargo.
Fans visited the 27,000-seat Valley Sports Stadium in Charlton to watch the League One clash between Charlton Athletic and MK Dons as Carlisle United took on Salford City at Brunton Park.
The site has been largely empty since March 13, as fears about the spread of the coronavirus across the UK increased and government orders to avoid mass gatherings were issued.
Fans returning to stadiums are also exempt from Tier 2 restrictionswhich say that they can only be served alcoholwith a hearty meal.You will be forced to stay in halls and have to sit down for something to eat and drink, while hospitality in sports venues has to take the last orders at 10pm.
It comes as Labor pushedTransport Secretary Grant Shapps puts forward a plan to ensure sports fans travel safely to reopened stadiums as five Premier League games are held in front of spectators this weekend.Labor said a strategy is needed to ensure that bottlenecks on bus, rail and London Underground networks are avoided.
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon said: “Ministers must have a plan in place to protect fans and transport workers before spectators return to the playing fields this weekend. With avid fans racing back to their home grounds for the first time in months, they need confidence that they can do so safely. ‘
Mr McMahon has also urged the government to conduct mass coronavirus tests for transport workers and suspend peak prices over Christmas to minimize the risk of overcrowding.
Charlton Athletic fans in the stands before the Sky Bet Championship game at The Valley
Carlisle United fans from their socially distant positions on the decks watch as the Carlisle United team warm up before the Sky Bet League Two game
Luton Town fans wearing protective face masks applaud on Kenilworth Road in Luton
Fans in the stands on Kenilworth Road in Luton as Luton Town plays Norwich City
Cutouts have been added in Brunton Park in Carlisle to fill the bleachers
A fan’s temperature is taken prior to entering Kenilworth Road for football
Luton Town fans outside the stadium before the Sky Bet Championship game
It comes after Michael Gove was forced to deny that venues, including sports fields, could insist on proof of a stab to allow entry after Boris Johnson’s vaccine tsar Nadhim Zahawi made the proposal.
According to government guidelines, stadiums should “take steps to reduce the queues for orders” and ensure “social distancing is maintained at all times,” but allow fans to drink alcohol without ordering food. A ban that has been in place since 1985 means that alcohol cannot be consumed within sight of the pitch.
It was called for the rule to be abolished in the face of the pandemic and for some form of “table service” to be allowed at the seats in order to avoid fans gathering at bars. However, the law has not yet been repealed, which means that detached seating may need to be installed in the halls if teams want to serve alcohol.
For modern facilities like Tottenham Hotspur Stadium or Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, this may not be a problem. However, older properties with smaller capacities and cramped warehouses may struggle to comply with the new regulations and be forced to abandon alcohol sales plans altogether.
However, fans who want a beer on the premises to sell face a different dilemma. Toilets could be closed.
According to the Telegraph, a code of conduct sent to fans warns, “Some of the amenities of the floor, such as toilets, food and beverage outlets, may not be operational or may be operating at a reduced capacity.”
Fans are also being warned against signing and shouting to limit the spread of Covid-19, which has forced sporting events to stand behind closed doors since March.
Government guidelines warn: “If singing is expected, viewers should be reminded of the risks. The cumulative effect of aerosol transmission means that the more people involved, the higher the risk of transmission. “
A general view of socially distant fans at the stadium during the Sky Bet League One game between Shrewsbury Town and Accrington Stanley in Montgomery Waters Meadow
Cambridge United fans watch the action at Abbey Stadium in Cambridge
Fan celebrates after his team’s first goal scored by Carlisle United’s Lewis Alessandra during the Sky Bet League Two game between Carlisle United and Salford City at Brunton Park
Carlisle United fans watch a limited number of fans visit the stadiums during the game
Fans come to The Valley, London for the Sky Bet Championship game
Shrewsbury Town fan Ed Dickson in the stands before the Sky Bet Championship game in Montgomery Waters Meadow, Shrewsbury
Fans come to The Valley, London for the Sky Bet Championship game
Londoners flocked to The Valley, the 27,000-seat sports stadium in Charlton, to watch the League One clash between Charlton Athletic and MK Dons. In Carlisle, spectators flocked to Brunton Park as Carlisle United faced Salford City in the Sky Bet League Two game
Arsenal will welcome the fans to their duel with Rapid Vienna on Thursday, while the North London derby at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will also have fans.
Sportsmail announced that for the first time since March, the Ministry of Culture Media and Sports presented proposals to the cabinet office for fans to return to the site in December.
In his statement of the long-awaited return of spectators to the venues, the Prime Minister said: “Levels 1 and 2 allow spectator sports and business events inside and outside to resume with capacity limits and social distancing.”
There were fears that Premier League clubs might turn down the opportunity to welcome fans back to their grounds next week amid concerns about costs and a lack of a roadmap for the full capacity crowd.
Sportsmail was told that although their operating costs vary, all top 20 clubs would lose significant sums of money if they allowed even the maximum number of 4,000 fans announced by the government on Monday – a limit likely to be in large areas the country is not permitted.
Carlisle United fans and clippings in the stadium before the game as a limited number of fans are allowed to visit stadiums
Cutouts have been added at Brunton Park in Carlisle to fill the stands in the stands
Luton Town fans hold up a sign outside the stadium before the game
The Premier League defied the government in September by canceling scheduled testing events because of dissatisfaction with a capacity cap of 1,000 imposed by Downing Street, which it deemed uneconomical.
It said: ‘The fans have been sorely missed at Premier League matches, so we welcome today’s announcement by the Prime Minister of the fans’ return for the first time since March. Our goal is to continue to work with the government to bring visitor numbers to a higher level.
‘Until that is possible, many fans will not be able to play games and our clubs will continue to play games at a financial loss. Our priority remains to agree a timetable with DCMS and the Sports Technology and Innovation Group for pilot events that can help our clubs quickly upgrade to larger capacities in accordance with the COVID-safe guidelines of the Sports Field Safety Authority and beyond.
‘Premier League clubs have a proven record of achieving high biosecurity standards and we believe we can play an important role in the government’s initiative for rapid turnaround testing.
“We look forward to working with the government on their next steps.”
As it stands, this is what all Premier League clubs that can open will do.