Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor discusses the return of football fans in December with tier restrictions set to be confirmed

There is light at the end of the tunnel for football fans across the country.

Thursday, 26th November 2020, 6:00 am

From December 2nd, supporters will be allowed to return to elite football stadiums for the first time since March following the end of the second national coronavirus lockdown.

But some, including Hartlepool United fans, are likely to have to wait just that bit longer before they’re allowed back into Victoria Park as a result of the Government’s tier system.

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Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor appplauds the fans at the end of the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Eastleigh at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Tuesday 7th January 2020. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Clubs located in the highest risk areas known as tier three will not be permitted to allow fans back into their stadiums. Tier two areas will be allowed a maximum of 2,000 spectators and 1,000 indoors from December 2, with tier one areas allowed up to 4,000 spectators in outdoor arenas and 2,000 indoors.

In smaller venues, a cap of 50% of maximum capacity is in place for tier one and two areas.

For example, should Hartlepool be placed in tier two, Victoria Park would be able to welcome 2,000 fans on a matchday. If the town was in tier one, 3,928 supporters would be granted access which is higher than any of Pools' recorded attendances from last season.

Unfortunately, it is looking likely that Hartlepool will be placed in tier three due to the town’s high coronavirus infection rate. The Government are set to announce which areas are in which tier today (Thursday, November 26).

But Pools boss Dave Challinor is pleased that some progress is being made to get fans back into grounds, even if Poolies have to remain patient.

“It’s tough with different rules for different teams but the one positive is that some fans will be allowed back in,” he told The Mail.

“The disappointment will come on Thursday when the likelihood is Hartlepool will be tier three and we won’t be allowed any fans in so it becomes about how quickly we can come out of tier three and drop to tier two and get 2,000 fans in and then eventually everyone back.

"At least, there’s a start point and we’re getting back into it because I think if you ask our players, they’d much rather have played in front of 4,000 Barnet fans than no fans at all on Tuesday night.

"We want to get fans back as quickly as possible and hopefully things turn around quickly and we can drop through the tiers and get the infection rate down and people can come back in The Vic doing what they do best and getting behind the team.”

On the potential disparity between clubs in different tiers, Challinor added: “It potentially pose a disadvantage when some clubs are allowed fans and chances are we’re not allowed any.

"But with the way things are currently, if you asked the players, just to get into the ground and have a crowd and an atmosphere rather than a sterile situation, that would be somewhere where we’re getting on the way back to normal.

"We know our home support is a massive help to us when we get things going as we did last season. We want 4,000 fans back in as soon as possible but we recognise that it needs to be done safely and it will be guided by what people far higher up than us tell us.”

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