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PRICE TO PAY English football clubs set to lose money as they prepare to welcome fans back next week

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Premier League matches have been staged in front of empty stands since March

Premier League matches have been staged in front of empty stands since March

Premier League matches have been staged in front of empty stands since March

English football clubs will welcome fans back into their stadiums for the first time next week, but the move is likely to raise costs for most clubs in the opening phase as a maximum of 2,000 spectators will be permitted.

Brighton, Chelsea, Liverpool and West Ham will be able to allow fans into their stadiums for their first Premier League matches in December under the Government’s new tier system in England to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

Yet the move is unlikely to be a money spinner for clubs, with the safeguards and preparations that will be required to bring fans back to stadiums for the first time since March likely to cost more than the income generated by ticket sales.

Lower league clubs will welcome the development, but the limit of 2,000 will also stretch the financial viability of a pilot scheme that will be reviewed by the UK government on a regular basis.

Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham, Fulham, Liverpool and Everton will also be permitted to welcome fans after their areas were placed into Tier 2 of the new coronavirus guidelines.

Brighton will host Southampton, Chelsea are at home to Leeds, champions Liverpool take on Wolves at Anfield while West Ham could welcome fans to the London Stadium for the visit of Manchester United.

Meanwhile, Manchester United are among the clubs that will be blocked from opening their stadium, with the Old Trafford club issuing this statement in response to the decision.

"Manchester United notes the government decision to keep Trafford in the Tier 3 category of COVID-19 restrictions. This means games at Old Trafford will continue to take place behind closed doors until further notice," it stated.

"Our plans for safely welcoming back fans to Old Trafford are well advanced and we look forward to doing so as soon as we are given the go ahead. We will continue to work with local authorities on finalising our plans so that we can move quickly when our area comes out of Tier 3.

"Some of our forthcoming away games in Tier 2 areas may take place with a limited number of fans in attendance. However, under current guidelines, away fans will not be permitted to attend.

Arsenal could be the first top-flight English club to play a competitive game in front of their own fans since March when they host Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday, December 3.

English Football League chairman Rick Parry said his competition was considering whether to switch next Tuesday’s matches to Wednesday if any of the home clubs were able to allow fans in after the lockdown period ends.

Of the games to be played on Tuesday, Bournemouth’s Championship match against Preston could welcome fans if it is pushed back 24 hours.

Meanwhile, Peterborough United's Irish chairman Darragh MacAnthony expressed his frustration at the new guidelines, as he is convinced fans can return to stadiums safely in larger numbers.

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In addition, fans could return to racing at Ludlow, Lingfield, Haydock and Kempton on Wednesday, with all four tracks are in Tier 2 areas under the Government’s post-lockdown restrictions.

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