Football fans could be allowed back in the Premier League and EFL next month… if coronavirus infection rates fall to a low level.
Government sports chiefs have drawn up proposals for a phased return of supporters to sports venues when lockdown ends on December 2.
PM Boris Johnson indicated that it was a “personal priority” earlier this week.
There had been warnings that sports venues could be closed until April, but there has been a change in approach.
The initial impact could be limited. When lockdown ends there is expected to be a new four tier system of restriction to normal freedoms.
Only clubs in the lowest tiers 1 and 2 would be allowed back at reduced capacity if infection and death rates have fallen.
Given many clubs are in big towns and cities which are experiencing the worst infection rates, it could take until into January or beyond before big clubs benefit.
Top flight clubs have lost tens of millions from the ban on fans.
West Ham chief Karren Brady revealed yesterday her club lost £2m per home game, with Man United believed to be losing £4.3m in income per game with Old Trafford empty.
The French Government is not expected to let fans back in until January at the earliest, and in Germany a partial return was scrapped as the virus took hold again.
In the UK the Department of Culture Media and Sport have sent plans to the Cabinet Office for approval. The new tier system after lockdown has yet to be announced.
There has been frustration in football that spectators will be allowed into the Royal Albert Hall and O2 Arena next month to watch arts events, leading to accusations of favouritism.
A 200,000 strong petition has been signed demanding fans be allowed back in.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden met representatives from the men’s and women’s game and fan groups on Tuesday in “constructive” talks about how the game is run, financed, and getting fans back.
Dowden tweeted: “Constructive conversation with football leaders on governance and getting fans back.
“Discussions to continue as we start our fan-led review of governance.”