France’s Ligue 1 will see the return of fans pushed back until at least January 7 when the situation of the pandemic will be reviewed.

Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the news after Roxana Maracineanu, the French Sports Minister, had earlier this month said the Government’s objective was for fans to be able to return to grounds from December 15 (Tuesday).

Castex said: “I know that sports fans dreamed of coming back to the stadium to see their favourite teams. We will therefore re-examine the possibility of reopening them from January 7 depending on the health situation at that time and the analysis that we can make of the effects of the end of the year holidays on the epidemiological situation.”

Meanwhile, Jean-Michel Blanquer, the Minister of Education, was cautious about the prospect of a return of spectators to the stadiums. When asked about the January 7 reopening date, he told BFMTV: “You have to hope. That’s what we think”. He went on to insist that the decision will be taken “in the light of the epidemic’s evolution”.

He also specified that a maximum number of fans will not be set for all the stadiums, but will be controlled as a percentage of their capacities.

The French government had scheduled a relaxation of health restrictions from tomorrow with the end of the lockdown. However, despite a reduction in the incidence of the virus, early projections do not indicate that the number of infections will be reduced to the target of 5,000 cases per day by Tuesday.

France, which was the first country to end its season after the spread of the coronavirus, was also the first to allow spectators back into stadiums. The limit was initially 5,000 fans, but was cut down to 1,000 in September before the country went into its second lockdown on November 24. Tomorrow marks the exit of the lockdown, but will see a curfew of 8pm to 6am coming into effect instead as there is currently an average of around 10,000 daily cases of Covid-19.

The news is in line with Germany’s current plan for the return of fans as the Bundesliga will not open its doors 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 ended in October due to a rise in infections across the country.

Fans were able to return to the Premier League last weekend for the first time since March as the UK government rolled out new coronavirus restriction tiers.

Ten clubs in tier 2 regions have been able to welcome up to 2,000 spectators, while the remaining clubs will continue playing home games behind closed doors as they are based in Tier 3 areas, which is deemed ‘very high’ on the COVID-19 alert level.

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