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Fans return to Premier League grounds

Fans returned to Premier League stadiums at the weekend following a nine-month absence, with Liverpool playing in front of their supporters for the first time since being crowned champions.

Two thousand fans were in attendance at Anfield yesterday (Sunday) as Liverpool won 4-0 against Wolverhampton Wanderers. It was the first time that Anfield had welcomed supporters since Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League loss against Atlético de Madrid on March 11.

General admission tickets were made available in the Main Stand and the Kop, with a ballot having been held to determine which fans would attend. All seats were available to purchase as single seats only, in line with social distancing measures.

“We had goosebumps when we came out for the warm-up,” said Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. “They were so happy to see us. We were so happy to see them.”

Liverpool’s next home match is against Tottenham Hotspur on December 16.

The weekend’s first Premier League match with fans was on Saturday at the London Stadium, where 2,000 socially-distanced supporters watched West Ham United fall to a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United.

Later on Saturday night, 2,000 fans were at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Leeds United, while yesterday the same number of supporters watched Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-0 derby victory over Arsenal.

Fans will also be in attendance for tonight’s match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Southampton at the Amex Stadium.

Up to 2,000 supporters are currently allowed in areas of England that are in Tier 2 of the COVID-19 alert level. The new tiered system came into effect last Wednesday, when a number of English Football League (EFL) teams marked the return of fans to their stadiums.

The weekend saw more fans return across the EFL, with Championship team Brentford’s new stadium welcoming supporters for the first time since opening earlier in the year. It marked seven years to the day since Brentford was granted planning permission for the new 17,250-seat stadium.

Elsewhere in the Championship, the return of fans to The Den, home of Millwall, was marred after some supporters booed when players took the knee before the match against Derby County.

Players across the Premier League and EFL have been taking a knee since football resumed in June in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the move was applauded at other stadiums at the weekend.

Millwall issued a statement yesterday saying it was “dismayed and saddened” by the events on Saturday, adding: “The club has worked tirelessly in recent months to prepare for the return of supporters and what should have been a positive and exciting occasion was completely overshadowed, much to the immense disappointment and upset of those who have contributed to those efforts.”

The club said it would meet with Kick it Out and representatives from other appropriate bodies “in an attempt to use Saturday’s events as a catalyst for more rapid solutions which have an impact both in the short and long-term”.

Football was not the only sport with fans in attendance at the weekend, as Twickenham welcomed 2,000 supporters for England’s 22-19 Autumn Nations Cup win over France. It marked the first time since March that the home of England Rugby had opened to fans.

Fans also returned in the Premiership club competition, with the aforementioned Brentford Community Stadium staging its second match in two days yesterday as London Irish lost 21-13 to Sale Sharks.

Elsewhere in the Premiership, 2,000 fans attended Worcester’s 33-17 defeat against Bath at Sixways, with the same number of spectators in attendance at Kingsholm Stadium as Gloucester lost 34-24 to Harlequins.

Image: Yurificacion/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size