UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce that up to 4,000 fans and spectators will be allowed to return to outdoor sports events in England’s lowest risk areas once the current coronavirus lockdown ends early next month.
Fans have been banned from football stadiums in the UK since March, apart from a handful of test events run during the summer before the second wave of the virus took hold.
England will replace its nationwide lockdown, which ends on 2 December and doesn’t extend to Scotland or Wales, with a second edition of the tier system.
The worst affected areas placed into tier three will not see fans return to football stadiums, but outdoor venues in tier one and tier two locations can re-open to limited numbers of people.
In tier two, there can be a maximum crowd of 50% capacity or 2,000, whichever is smaller. In tier one, the same rules on 50% of overall capacity will apply, but to a maximum of 4,000 people.
Earlier this month, a number of Premier League clubs had resigned themselves to the possibility of not being allowed to open stadiums to fans this season as uncertainty remained rife.
Having seen initial plans to partially re-open stadiums in October scrapped as a result of a startling rise in cases, clubs had asked authorities to work towards a potential return for fans over the Christmas period. But a second lockdown that began this month appeared to derail such plans.
As a result, most Premier League sides, having done important preparation work to ensure fans could be safe at stadiums, began preparing for the possibility that it could be August 2021 before supporters could return to live games. That makes the latest update, which comes in the wake of significant recent breakthroughs in vaccine development, a huge boost.