Sport in London to go back behind closed doors

Professional sport in London will go back behind closed doors from tomorrow (Wednesday) as the English capital moves to Tier 3 of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown system.

The move will mean that Premier League football clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Crystal Palace and Fulham will not be able to allow fans at their stadiums for upcoming fixtures.

The COVID-19 tier system in England will be reviewed tomorrow and it has already been confirmed that London will move into Tier 3, the level with the strictest guidelines, following a spike in cases.

Fans returned to Premier League grounds earlier this month, with each of London’s six clubs having staged one league match with supporters in the ground. The latest announcement means that only four Premier League teams – Liverpool, Everton, Brighton & Hove Albion and Southampton – are currently able to welcome fans as they are based in Tier 2 areas, where up to 2,000 spectators are permitted.

London’s switch to Tier 3 will also impact clubs across the English Football League (EFL), with Championship teams Brentford, Millwall, Queens Park Rangers and Watford unable to welcome fans from tomorrow.

QPR and Watford will welcome fans to their matches tonight before the restrictions kick in. League One side Charlton Athletic and League Two outfit Southend United will also welcome supporters tonight before they move into Tier 3.

The tiered lockdown system allows for up to 4,000 fans in Tier 1 areas but currently only Cornwall, Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly fall into this bracket. Two thousand fans are allowed in Tier 2 areas but Tier 3 areas will continue to stage sporting events behind closed doors.

Tomorrow could see some areas move from Tier 3 to Tier 2, which would open up the possibility of more clubs being able to welcome fans. Rates have fallen in Greater Manchester, which is currently in Tier 3, and there have been calls from some local councillors for the area to be moved to Tier 2.

The latest announcement will mean that the World Darts Championship at London’s Alexandra Palace will be played without fans from tomorrow. The tournament gets underway today and will go ahead with a limited number of fans as initially planned, but from tomorrow until December 23 no spectators will be allowed.

London’s SSE Arena, Wembley welcomed 1,000 fans for Saturday night’s unified heavyweight championship fight between Anthony Joshua and Kubrat Pulev but it remains to be seen when the venue will be able to reopen its doors.

The move will also impact theatre in the capital, with Julian Bird, chief executive of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, stating the switch to Tier 3 is “devastating news” for the industry.

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