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Fans could return to football stadiums potentially as soon as December 2nd

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces initial plans for crowds to return to sporting events

The Stamford Bridge Stadium Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On Monday afternoon, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in Parliament plans that would allow a maximum of 4,000 fans to spectate football matches in England. Initial guidelines would revolve around updated regional tiers as England’s national lockdown ends on December 2nd.

This news will be a boon for football clubs in the lower rungs of the English pyramid, who have been hit the hardest with the financial and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to The Athletic, the initial guidelines will allow football stadiums in regions with tier 1 restrictions to allow a maximum of 4,000 fans or 50 per cent of stadium capacity, depending on which number is lower.

Stadiums in regions with tier 2 restrictions will be allowed the lower number between 2,000 fans or 50 per cent stadium capacity. Stadiums in tier 3 restrictions, will unfortunately not be allowed any fans.

“In tiers one and two, spectator sports and business events will be free to resume inside and outside with capacity limits and social distancing. Later this week, we will announce which areas will fall into which tier - I hope on Thursday - based on analysis of cases in all age groups, especially the over-60s.”

“Also, [it will involve] looking at the rate at which cases are rising or falling, the percentage of those tested in a local population who have Covid and current and projected pressures on the NHS.”

- Boris Johnson, source: BBC

Should southwest London get adjudged to be within tier 1 restrictions starting December 2nd, Stamford Bridge would be able to allow up to 4,000 fans back into the stadium, which will comprise just shy of 10 per cent of the stadiums maximum capacity.

From Chelsea’s latest financial results (2018-19 season), match day revenue represented roughly 15 per cent of annual revenue. Obviously, the impact of COVID-19 has dramatically reduced this revenue stream over the course of 2020.

While seeing an initial return of 4,000 fans would be small in comparison to average attendance figures of 40,000+ pre-COVID, at this point every little bit will help.

That said, the idea of fans being allowed to return so soon should be met with some skepticism. This past international break saw the number of COVID-19 cases rise dramatically including among the already semi-isolated population of professional footballers.

The pandemic is still far from over, despite the promising news of multiple vaccines being developed, some of which may even be deployed in very small batches as early as mid-December in the USA.

UK MPs will vote on the plans announced by Johnson this upcoming Thursday. Having government approval will be the first big hurdle for football. The next big obstacle will likely rest on The FA’s and the Premier League’s shoulders how to manage it all and avoid any feelings of resentment, or worse, an outbreak.