*(Updated December 31, 2020)*
The question of how the coronavirus is affecting the English football leagues is obviously on many people’s minds. I have some basic Q&A below, and I’m tracking the latest news.
Is English soccer happening during the pandemic?
Yes. The Premier League season started the weekend of September 12. Here is the full schedule. All other leagues are also happening, as are the FA Cup (schedule), League Cup (schedule), Champions League (schedule) and Europa League (schedule).
Can supporters go to soccer games in the UK?
No. On December 30, a new government announcement effectively shut it all down. Non-league football has gone as far as suspending their season for a few weeks.
The UK’s new system places areas into four tiers, based on the pandemic status in each area. In tier 1, stadiums would be allowed up to 4,000 fans or 50% of capacity, whichever is smaller. Indoor events at tier 1 would be at 2,000 people or 50%, again whichever is smaller.
At tier 2 outdoor events, it would be 2,000 people or 50%. At tier 3, doors would remain closed.
No professional English clubs are now in tier 1 or 2, and with many semipro and amateur teams shutting down for the time being, there is effectively no football to see in person in England. This official government announcement lists all the regions by tier.
How Hard is Getting English Soccer Tickets in the Pandemic?
When spectators can return, the question of how clubs will allocate these tickets is still being sorted out. But it’s safe to assume that bigger clubs will have a lottery (which in the UK is called a “ballot”) among season ticket holders.
We suspect the general public will only be able to secure a ticket at much smaller clubs. Stay tuned.
Can supporters attend soccer games in Europe?
Other European countries have been on a similar path: limited access with restrictions like social distancing, no beer, health data tracking, time-stamped entry, no away fans, etc. But in the latest virus surge, many countries (and therefore leagues) are closing doors again.
None of this matters much for Americans, though, because…
Can Americans even go to Europe or the UK right now?
Americans are banned from entering most countries in Europe, and can only go to the UK with a quarantine on arrival — which for most people is effectively the same as saying “no.” But as of December 15, that quarantine time was reduced to six days with a test (at your expense) required at that point to go about the country.
Here is much more on travel from Groundhopper Guides, including links for non-Americans. And here is the US State Department advisory page for the UK.
If I have a ticket for a game that’s been postponed, do I get a refund?
Whoever you bought your ticket from, contact them. Most clubs seem to have refunded regular tickets in cash and hospitality packages as a credit for future purchases.
Groundhopper Guides clients are getting a 100% refund as a credit towards future purchases, with no expiration date.
Are soccer clubs going to fold because of Covid?
Yes, and some already have, since most lower-league clubs depend massively on ticket sales for revenue. Here’s more on that. This is like a tsunami hitting the world of soccer, and some things are just not going to survive. Many clubs had to lay people off, and some asked players to take a pay cut.
The Premier League is now in talks with the Football League around a financial aid package of some £200-250 million. And the government is putting together a package of a few million pounds per month to help the National League clubs. It’s only because of that aid that they started their season as planned in October.
Here is a good video on the economic impact on English clubs, from back in March.