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Fans return to sports venues in England

Fans returned to sports venues across England this week as football clubs and racecourses opened their doors to the public for the first time in almost nine months.

Aside from a handful of pilot events in August and September, stadiums across the UK have been empty since March, following the outbreak of coronavirus.

However, following the recent Government announcement on the return of fans in Tier 1 and Tier 2, six EFL Clubs will opened their doors to supporters on December 2, while racing took place at courses including Lingfield Park, Ludlow and Haydock Park.

Cambridge United, Carlisle United, Charlton Athletic, Luton Town, Shrewsbury Town and Wycombe Wanderers all played in front of fans, as Clubs continue to work tirelessly to ensure the safety of those in attendance.

Some 2,000 fans were also back at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium on December 4 for their Europa League clash with Rapid Vienna.

EFL Chair, Rick Parry said:

We’re all delighted and frankly excited. It’s been a very, very long time coming, we’ve had many challenges along the way and there was a time when we were all thinking it might not happen this side of Christmas, but it’s a very welcome and a very important first step.

 It’s as exciting for fans as it is for clubs, because they’ve missed football and I’m sure it’s going to be a special occasion in all the stadiums where fans are permitted on Wednesday night and over the weekend.

With staggered arrival times, fans remained socially distanced throughout the games and face masks were worn.

Whilst the return of fans is an extremely positive step, only those Clubs in Tier 1 and 2 areas will be permitted to admit fans, meaning some Clubs will continue playing behind closed doors for the time being.

Meanwhile, around 300 racegoers at Lingfield Park were delighted to be back to see horses and jockeys in action, albeit with social distancing in place.

Arena Racing Company’s communications manager, Sam Cone, explained how the course was set up. He said:

The green zone for key personnel will still be in existence, and the rest of the course will be the amber zone for owners and general admissions. People will be able to move around outside, albeit with social distancing and adhering to the rule of six, as in any other outdoor setting. If you are inside, you can only sit at a table with people in your bubble.

As with all racecourses, we’re encouraging people to drive rather than use public transport. You’ve also got to have face coverings at all times, unless you’re eating or drinking.

Jockey Callum Shepherd said it was good to have fans back:

It’s great to have some spectators back. There were a few behind us in the winner’s enclosure and it’s nice to have some friendly faces supporting you.