Coronavirus: More sporting events move back behind closed doors
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Fans had been allowed back into Fulham’s Craven Cottage but are now once again unable to attend games

More sporting events in England will not have fans attending from Saturday after large areas in the south-east and east of the country were moved into the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.

Up to 2,000 had been allowed at outdoor arenas in England after the end of the second national lockdown on 2 December.

But a rise in infections has resulted in more areas moving into tier three.

Football, rugby union, darts and horse racing are among the sports affected.

Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire will move up to tier three from 00:01 on Saturday, as will parts of Surrey, East Sussex, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire.

London, most of Essex and parts of Hertfordshire were moved into tier three on Wednesday.

Many areas of the Midlands and northern England were left in tier three, with only Bristol and north Somerset being moved from tier three to tier two.

Liverpool’s home win against Tottenham on Wednesday is going be the only midweek Premier League match to feature fans, with the city in tier two.

And the Reds, Everton, Brighton and Southampton will be the only top-flight clubs that can allow up to 2,000 spectators going forward.

The World Darts Championship has also been affected. Organisers had planned to have 1,000 fans in attendance – as permitted indoors under tier-two guidelines – before the ruling changed.

Tuesday’s opening night at Alexandra Palace welcomed spectators before the event – which concludes on 3 January – goes behind closed doors, although the government has said it will look at restrictions again on 23 December.

In rugby union, London Irish – who play at Brentford’s new stadium – have confirmed tickets for their European Challenge Cup tie against Pau on Sunday have been taken off sale.

Organisers of racing’s festive highlight, the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, had hoped to welcome 2,000 spectators but have been forced to abandon those plans after Surrey moved into tier three.

The race will now be held behind closed doors, as will Saturday’s meeting at Ascot and festive fixtures at Sandown and Newbury.

A spokesperson for the Jockey Club said: “We know that racing fans will be disappointed to be missing out on some thrilling live action over the Christmas period, especially having only just been allowed to return to our venues in very limited numbers.

“However, we recognise we must all play our part in tackling this pandemic and look forward to welcoming racegoers back to our courses as soon as we’re able to do so.”

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