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Ipswich Town to welcome back 2,000 supporters while non-league clubs get the green light for their crowds

With Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire all being placed in Tier 2 (high alert) of the government's three Covid-19 regional levels we explain what it means for sport.

How many supporters can watch Ipswich Town and when from?

The government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan confirmed spectators can return to grounds at all levels of areas labelled within Tier 1 or Tier 2 in restricted capacities.

Limited crowds of up to 2,000 are set to return to Ipswich Town's Portman Road Picture: Mecha Morton
Limited crowds of up to 2,000 are set to return to Ipswich Town's Portman Road Picture: Mecha Morton

With Suffolk being in Tier 2 it means there will be a cap of 2,000 at Portman Road, which would have been double that – up to 4,000 – if the county had been placed in Tier 1.

The Blues are at home again this weekend, against Charlton Athletic but the new rules do not kick in until the current lockdown is lifted, on Wednesday, December 2. It means the first game with fans back at Portman Road will be for the visit of Portsmouth on Saturday, December 12 (3pm).

How do I get a ticket for an Ipswich Town match?

The club have previously indicated they will need to give priority to their season ticket holders first. With around 9,000 of those, it means it will be restricted to just season ticket holders.

Deciding who gets to go will be a challenge for the club, who have been preparing for this by asking which of their season ticket holders would want to return at this stage.

The current official line from the club is: "The Club will announce further details in due course."

What does Tier 2 mean for non-league football?

Non-league clubs are able to resume training and playing from December 2 regardless of the tier level they fall in. But only in Tier 1 and Tier 2 do we know that supporters are guaranteed to be able to return; set to be on the same restricted capacities as in Ollie Bayliss' tweet.

So for Suffolk's non-league clubs it is largely good news, apart from the hospitality restrictions, which could prove a major sticking point to their return.

Being in Tier 2 means they cannot serve alcohol unless it is consumed as part of a 'substantial meal'. And they will not be able to open their clubhouses if not operating as a restaurant with table service.

This has led to concerns that some clubs would not feel it is viable to restart under these restrictions with limited crowds also limiting their revenue.

A number of leagues are due to meet with the FA over the next few days to speak about the situation of resuming and, in particular, the Tier 3 clubs situation (see below).

What about clubs in leagues that have teams in Tier 3, will those games still get played?

Under the tier rules, those teams in Tier 3, such as in Kent and part of the East Midlands (Derby and Derbyshire

Leicester and Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) would not be able to stage games with crowds at any level.

There is also the problem of teams in Tier 2 areas (such as Needham Market, Leiston and Lowestoft Town) who play in leagues (e.g. Southern League) with teams in Tier 3. Under the government's guidance travelling into a Tier 3 area is not encouraging, unless for specific reasons, such as work (which this could be considered as, with contract players involved).

This could still change with the Football Association still having dialogue with the Department for Digital, Communities, Media & Sport and having got an exception previously for non-league (Steps 3-6 of the National League System) on the basis that match day revenue was needed for those clubs to be able to continue playing.

How does it affect horse racing?

If we're talking about the elite racing that Newmarket has been running it now means it can take place in front of crowds of up to 2,000 or 50 per cent of the capacity of an outdoor venue – whatever is lower. But with the Flat season now finished, Newmarket is not set to host another fixture until April.

It does mean that other nearby venues outside of Suffolk in Tier 2 areas will be able to run those limited crowd numbers though.

What about other sports?

Grassroots sports, such as golf, are able to resume from next Wednesday*, irrespective of tiers, while the rule of six will continue to apply to indoor sport, with the exception of elite athletes, under-18s and those that are disabled.

Being in a Tier 2 area means you can play a round of golf, for instance, with people not from your household or support bubble, as long as you keep to social distancing rules. In a Tier 3 area you would be restricted to playing with just people from your household or support bubble.

*Rugby continues to be a sport, due to the amount of contact, that is not able to fully resume. An adapted non-contact version was being played with up to 10 versus 10 before the lockdown and is set to be able to resume post-lockdown.

Read more: Suffolk avoids toughest restrictions