Football fans across the country have been issued a significant blow just days away from the start of the 2020/21 season following a government rule change.
Liverpool kick-off their new Premier League campaign at home to Leeds United to Saturday evening, while Everton start a day later away to Tottenham.
Fans of both clubs have been unable to attend matches since the previous campaign was suspended in mid-March, with the Premier League and Championship season finishing behind closed doors.
While it was always clear that the new season would begin in the same fashion, plans were being made for the gradual return of fans to the stadium – with Premier League duo Arsenal and Liverpool among the clubs to outline possible plans for limited attendance to matches in October.
However, the government announced on Tuesday evening that gatherings of more than six people would be banned in the biggest crackdown since lockdown rules were eased.
Boris Johnson also announced a “review” of plans to reintroduce fans into stadiums from October 1 and events at which pilot audiences were set to attend will also be ‘revised’.
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First offenders breaking the new rules will be fined £100, which will double on each further offence up to a figure of £3,200 as the government looks to quell an alarming surge in coronavirus cases across the country.
“We need to act now to stop the virus spreading. So we are simplifying and strengthening the rules on social contact, making them easier to understand and for the police to enforce,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced.
“It is absolutely critical that people now abide by these rules and remember the basics – washing your hands, covering your face, keeping space from others, and getting a test if you have symptoms.”
Gatherings above six people will be illegal except for those in a limited list of exemptions, which include work, education and a household or support bubble.
Further exemptions will also apply for weddings, funerals and organised team sports in a Covid-secure way.
That means that football matches can continue to be played but it makes it highly unlikely that fans will be returning to stadiums soon, with supporters now facing an extended period watching on via television sets.
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