Fans' welcome return to sport in England

·2-min read

Professional sport in England has taken another step towards normality as fans were welcomed back to venues across the country on Monday.

After a series of successful pilot events, supporters were permitted back into regular fixtures - albeit in limited numbers - as coronavirus restrictions were eased further.

Crowds will return to the Premier League on Tuesday after a round of matches for May 18 and 19 was scheduled to allow all clubs the chance to play one home game in front of supporters before the end of the season on Sunday.

Bournemouth and Barnsley football fans on the first day of step three in the government's coronavirus recovery road map were among the first to benefit from the easing restrictions as crowds were allowed for their Championship play-off semi-final first legs against Brentford and Swansea City respectively.

At Bournemouth's Vitality Stadium, 2,000 fans were greeted by a message on the scoreboard which read: "Welcome back, we've missed you".

In South Yorkshire, 4,500 Barnsley fans became the first to see their side in a home match since March 2020.

Capturing the upbeat atmosphere, the stadium announcer boomed: "It gives me great pleasure to be able to say this for the first time in 436 days.... Welcome to Oakwell!"

The rugby league and rugby union top flights also saw spectators returning, as did horse and greyhound race meetings.

Hull housed the biggest crowd, with 5,527 spread around all four stands of the KCOM Stadium for their Super League defeat by Catalans Dragons.

Under changed restrictions, larger seated outdoor venues are now able to admit up to 10,000 spectators while smaller outdoor venues have capacities capped at 4,000 or 50 per cent, whichever is lowest.

In the US, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that starting May 22 the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets will have fully vaccinated fan sections.

More than half the seats for the team's NBA home play-off games at the 21,000 capacity Madison Square Garden and almost 18,000 capacity Barclays Center will be for fully vaccinated fans.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros, from next week, and the Boston Red Sox, late this month, will permit 100 per cent attendance at home games joining a growing list of MLB teams to do likewise.

If still alive in the NHL and NBA playoffs, the Boston Bruins and Celtics would also be able to play to full capacity as of May 29.