Frank Lampard has claimed that football should be exempt from the coronavirus tier system and has called on Premier League clubs to work together to convince the government to allow fans in regions under the toughest restrictions to still attend matches.
Confirmation that London and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will enter tier 3 at 00.01am on Wednesday means Arsenal, Fulham and West Ham will no longer be able to welcome fans for Wednesday’s fixtures against Southampton, Brighton and Crystal Palace respectively, despite tickets having already been allocated.
An Arsenal statement said: “We are disappointed to confirm that we are no longer able to welcome fans to Emirates Stadium for our Premier League fixture against Southampton on Wednesday, December 16.”
The new regulations mean only four Premier League clubs can host supporters: Brighton, Everton, Liverpool and Southampton, with the rest restricted to playing behind closed doors.
Lampard believes clubs in tier 2 areas have demonstrated they can create a secure environment for the public at stadiums. Chelsea’s manager also said that some teams playing without crowds and others enjoying backing from supporters has created an uneven playing field and is asking the league to find a solution that would benefit all clubs.
“I did say at the start that I didn’t want the advantage [of having 2,000 fans when others have none],” he said. “I was delighted for fans to come back in the tier system. I’m not that experienced in it, but who is? For me it seems to contradict itself at certain times and if you can do something that’s safe and well-prepared, which I think football clubs – certainly at the Premier League level – can do, then I think we should try to keep the world moving as much as we can.
“I will certainly back that and hope others maybe do. If it’s possible, it will always come down to the government. I’m not going to try to override them as well because maybe they know a lot more detail than I do on the specifics. But just for the sake of football it’s such a shame we go one step forward, having fans back at the low level, and then we have to take a step back again.”
Lampard said having supporters present has been a boost to Chelsea, who will look to bounce back from losing at Everton on Saturday, when they visit Wolves on Tuesday evening.
“I’m slightly disappointed,” he said. “Even though we’ve been in tier 2 and had fans in for a couple of games, I did feel it should have been a level playing field if some clubs can have them and some can’t.
“We’ve seen already and felt it, the backing they give you and what it does to the game. I also think we can control 2,000 fans coming into a stadium if they are coming from within a [different] tier or whatever, to keep things moving along.
“Let’s get it right, we are making it up as we go along because we’ve never been in this position before. I think when you are talking about if clubs can control the situation, then I think that they’ve shown so far that they can. I would like to have thought something could be done to make it exempt where we can get that 2,000 number in.”
The Leeds manager, Marcelo Bielsa, and Steve Bruce of Newcastle are among those with clubs in tier 3 who have previously said some supporters being allowed to attend matches gives rivals an unfair advantage.
“If fans are not allowed in all stadiums, then they should not be allowed until everyone can,” Bielsa said last month. “Clubs shouldn’t have to deal with the consequences of being in a category. It should be about trying to maintain the competition as equally as possible.”
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has all but confirmed to parliament that Leeds could soon move into tier 2, which would mean the club could welcome 2,000 fans for the home game with Burnley on 27 December.