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The return of fans and what it means

As England moves out of its second lockdown, this week sees the first steps of fans returning to stadiums in elite sport since March, along with a return of fans to non-elite sport at Steps 3 and below of the non-league pyramid who had been attending matches since earlier in the autumn.

We thought it would be prudent to pull together all the official guidance into one place, to dispel any myths you might have heard and provide you with the official information that pertains to you.

Government guidance

All elite sport conforms to the Government’s snappily titled ‘Elite sport Stage Five – return to competition: safe return of spectators‘ guidance, which has been produced by the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA). This guidance mandates the limits you may have read relating to capacities allowed depending on local area – 4,000 in Tier 1 and 2,000 in Tier 2, or 50% of capacity (whichever is lower).

If you have seen stories relating to a ‘ban on singing’ when fans return, you’ll be pleased to learn that this is not the case – the prohibition only relates to indoor events The guidance states: “If singing is expected to take place, spectators should be reminded of the risks. The cumulative effect of aerosol transmission means the more people involved, the higher the risk of transmission.

“Based on public health advice for indoor performances, even where face coverings are mandated, crowds at indoor events should not participate in any activity that can create aerosols, including singing, shouting and chanting.”

There are no spectators allowed in Tier 3 areas, and away fans are prohibited in all Tiers: “No travelling away fans, for Competition Venues hosting opposing sides. This is to significantly reduce impacts on transport and the movement of populations between regions.”


The EFL have released their Supporters’ Code of Conduct for the return of fans to stadia. This works as guidance to what supporters are likely to see released by their own clubs – keep an eye out for that.

“…as part of the Government’s Return of Fans (Stage 5) Guidance, and SGSA advice, all Clubs are required to prepare and distribute a Supporters’ Code of Conduct for any match attending ticket holders

“The EFL has therefore taken feedback from a number of areas, including some Clubs originally involved in the successful pilot matches in September, to develop an EFL Supporters’ Code of Conduct. The Code is not a ‘one size fits all’, and has been drafted to enable Clubs to adapt it as appropriate for their local circumstances.”

Premier League

The Premier League has supplied all top-flight clubs with a sample code of conduct which they will adapt to their own circumstances and share with match-goers, covering areas such as photo ID, temperature testing, health questionnaires and face coverings.

Non-elite football (Step 3 of non-league and below)

Many of the restrictions that were in place before the autumn lockdown remain – there is less clarity for clubs on what exactly constitutes takeaway for the serving of food and drink within stadiums, with clubs searching for solutions with local councils and public health bodies.

As always, we would advise checking with your club for specific rules and processes around your ground, how tickets will be allocated and what restrictions there may be whatever level they play at.

Funding partners

  • The Football Association
  • Premier Leage Fans Fund


  • Gamble Aware
  • Co-operatives UK
  • FSE
  • Kick It Out
  • Level Playing Field
  • Living Wage Foundation
  • Pledgeball