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Tottenham hit the top as Premier League fans return

Tottenham Hotspur’s head of ticketing Ian Murphy said the club will ensure future ticket ballots prioritise fans that have missed out on previous matches after the successful return of fans for the North London derby against Arsenal on Sunday.

Tottenham, who were allowed to host 2,000 spectators at their 60,000-seat stadium as their London home is in England’s Tier 2, utilised a random ballot process which gave the opportunity for all eligible general admission season ticket holders to apply to enter.

The club, which decided to avoid the potential pinch point of a straight “first-come-first-served” on-sale which would have seen a huge demand for a very small number of tickets, invited all season ticket holders to enter the ballot if they wished. Only those that requested a deferral on medical grounds for the 2020-21 season were prohibited from entering the ballot.

Murphy said the ballot was “hugely oversubscribed”.

Those fans lucky enough to attend the game against Arsenal – which Tottenham won 2-0 to reach the top of the Premier League table – were housed in a single tier of the South Stand and in the West Stand.

Speaking to TheTicketingBusiness.com, Murphy said: “The South Stand is our iconic stand and also the largest both in terms of seating capacity and concourse space to ensure excellent space for social distancing for supporters.

“Our Premium guests were located in the West Stand in our designated hospitality facilities. Again, the space in these areas allowed the supporters in attendance to enjoy a safe, welcoming experience behind the scenes and when they were sat watching the match.

“A great deal of planning work went into devising the optimum seating layout in line with the guidelines from the SGSA.

“Due to the high number of our season ticket holders who live at separate addresses we opted to allocate all seating in the South Stand as single seats. This allowed groups to apply together and, if successful, be allocated seats adjacent to each other, albeit separated by three empty seats to ensure social distancing rules were fully complied with.

“This approach also gave us the flexibility to utilise individual seats elsewhere if a member of a group booking had to cancel their ticket.”

He added: “We will continue to operate a ballot process and that entries for each match will be monitored and weighted to ensure that those that missed out on earlier matches will be prioritised to ensure a fair distribution of tickets across our season ticket holders.”

Tottenham and fellow title contenders Chelsea and Liverpool each won in front of 2,000 home fans over the weekend. West Ham also welcomed fans, although they lost to Manchester United, while Brighton will play Southampton in front of supporters later today (Monday).

Murphy added: “After nine months without fans in the stadium it was great to be able to welcome our supporters back. The feedback and excitement from the fans as they arrived was very similar to when we first opened the stadium.

“A huge amount of work has gone on behind the scenes to get to this point and it was fantastic to have fans there to watch a victory in a local derby. The noise generated by 2,000 supporters only served to whet the appetite to get a higher number of supporters back into the venue as soon as it is safe and possible to do so.”

Fans also returned at many English Football League venues in Tier 2 over the weekend. No fans are allowed at games in Tier 3 – which includes areas such as Manchester, Lancashire and Yorkshire. Up to 4,000 fans are allowed at fixtures in Tier 1, however no Football League clubs are located in the small number of areas this applies to.

The Premier League is the only one of Europe’s major leagues where fans are currently able to attend games, with the shutters up in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Fans could return to France’s Ligue 1 later this month. Roxana Maracineanu, the French Sports Minister, said last week in a conference that the Government’s objective is for fans to be able to return to grounds from December 15.

“I’ve understood the complaints from all sports professionals and those who work in the health protocols and they’ve told me that they are ready to open stadia again from 15th December. I’m going to tell the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic so that we can try and reach an agreement,” she said.

Fans will not return to Germany’s Bundesliga until at least January 2021. After renewed consultations between the federal and state governments, the partial lockdown in Germany is to continue until January 10. The season started with clubs allowing 20 per cent of capacity before this was ended in October due to a rise in infections across the country.

Italy’s Serie A season began with 1,000 fans able to attend matches, but this was soon reversed. Spectators have not been allowed in Spain all season, although La Liga president Javier Tebas last week said it is hoped they will be back in January.

Image: Tottenham Hotspur