The Premier League will be split down the middle when the national lockdown ends next week, with half the division’s 20 clubs able to welcome back fans, including those in Liverpool and London, and the other half not.
After the government announced new tiering measures for England on Thursday, 10 top-flight clubs were placed in the strictest category, tier 3.
In the Premier League no fans will be allowed at Aston Villa, Burnley, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, Sheffield United, West Brom or Wolves.
The other 10 clubs in the top division can allow up to 2,000 supporters into stadiums because they fall into tier 2 restrictions: Arsenal, Brighton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Southampton, Tottenham and West Ham.
Not a single club in England’s four top divisions falls into the lowest category of tier 1 restrictions, where 4,000 fans could be permitted. The tiers will be reviewed in mid-December.
Arsenal will be the first Premier League club to have fans back when they play Rapid Vienna in the Europa League next Thursday. “We can’t wait to welcome our fans back home for what will be a historic moment for the club,” they said.
A number of EFL matches are due to be played next Wednesday in front of supporters and fixtures may be moved to that day from Tuesday to allow fans in.
Newcastle’s manager, Steve Bruce, criticised the whole setup: “Why only 2,000 or 4,000 fans in tier 2 or 1 when we have the capacity to safely house 20,000 at St James’ Park [capacity just over 52,000]? I think that’s unfair.”
His Leeds counterpart, Marcelo Bielsa, suggested some teams were receiving an advantage and others were being “penalised”. “It shouldn’t be about the category, or the consequences of being in a category, it should be about trying to maintain the competition as equal as possible with things that are controllable,” he said. “The presence of fans has an effect on the results.”
Tier 2: Bournemouth, Brentford, Luton, Millwall, Norwich, QPR, Reading, Watford, Wycombe.
Tier 3: Barnsley, Birmingham, Blackburn, Bristol City, Coventry, Derby, Huddersfield, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Preston, Rotherham, Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke.
Awaiting clarity: Cardiff, Swansea.
Tier 2: AFC Wimbledon, Charlton, Crewe, Ipswich, MK Dons, Northampton, Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Shrewsbury, Swindon.
Tier 3: Accrington, Blackpool, Bristol Rovers, Burton, Doncaster, Fleetwood, Gillingham, Hull, Lincoln, Rochdale, Sunderland, Wigan.
Tier 2: Barrow, Carlisle, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Colchester, Crawley, Exeter, Forest Green, Harrogate, Leyton Orient, Southend, Stevenage, Tranmere.
Tier 3: Bolton, Bradford, Grimsby, Mansfield, Morecambe, Oldham, Port Vale, Salford City, Scunthorpe, Walsall.
Awaiting clarity: Newport County.
Women’s Super League
Tier 2: Arsenal, Brighton, Chelsea, Everton, Reading, Tottenham, West Ham.
Tier 3: Aston Villa, Birmingham, Bristol City, Manchester City, Manchester United.
Tier 2: Charlton, Crystal Palace, Lewes, Liverpool, London Bees, London City.
Tier 3: Blackburn, Coventry, Durham, Leicester, Sheffield United.