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Plans outlined for potential return of football fans next month

Football fans in England could be allowed back at stadiums before the end of the year under new plans proposed by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The DCMS today (Tuesday) held a virtual meeting with representatives from the Premier League, English Football League (EFL) and Football Association (FA). While specific details of the meeting have not been officially announced, it has been widely reported that the DCMS has proposed a system whereby fans would be able to attend matches depending on which tier of COVID-19 restrictions their local area is in.

The UK’s current lockdown is due to run until December 2, after which point the government is planning on returning to the tiered system previously used, sources told ESPN.

The DCMS has proposed that Premier League or EFL clubs at the lowest COVID-19 risk level can allow a limited number of fans into their stadium. ESPN reports that these plans would still require approval from the government.

Since football returned in June, all Premier League matches have been held without fans, while a small handful of EFL games were held with a limited number of fans in September as part of a pilot programme. Fan pilot events have also been held in other sports such as cricket, rugby union, snooker and horse racing.

The Times, citing sources familiar with the matter, reported that while the tiered system for football fans is “unlikely” to come into force until 2021, the possibility of the least at-risk areas allowing fans as early as next month has not been ruled out.

The news of the potential return of fans to football grounds comes after a £50m Premier League rescue package for lower-league clubs was last week approved by the EFL following progress between the top-tier league and the second-tier Championship.

The financial support package is designed to cover matchday losses for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons and is set to soon become available for League One and League Two clubs.

The package, which is made up of £20m in grants and £30m in loans to help clubs cope with the absence of matchday revenue, was initially rejected by the EFL last month because it did not apply to Championship clubs.