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Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony slams Government tier changes

Further areas of the south-east and eastern England have been moved into tier three from Saturday.

The Government decision to shut sports venues which had opened up to fans at the start of the month has been heavily criticised by Peterborough chairman Darragh MacAnthony, who said it "made a mockery" of clubs' attempts to welcome fans safely back.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced changes to the regionalised tier system for managing the pandemic on Thursday, moving large areas of south-east and eastern England from tier two to tier three – where the tightest restrictions apply.

It means outdoor sports venues in those areas which were able to allow in up to 2,000 spectators from December 2 must close again from Saturday, something which MacAnthony described as an "over reach" of the Government's responsibilities.

He wrote on Twitter: "Well done to our staff for all hard work getting safety protocols in place for the 2 games we did have fans.

"The Government just made mockery of that work/money spent to give our fans a safe space to have much-needed mental break from this pandemic as they drive everybody indoors."

Asked by another Twitter user what the consequences would be for ignoring the Government advice and keeping the club's London Road ground open, MacAnthony said: "Bar going to jail, points deductions & a great picture moment of me getting thrown in back of a police van... not much."

Hancock said Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, the whole of Hertfordshire, Surrey with the exception of Waverley, Hastings and Rother on the Kent border of East Sussex plus Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant in Hampshire would move from tier two to the highest-risk tier three category due to a rise in Covid-19 cases and coronavirus-related hospital admissions.

The Government had already completed an emergency review which had placed London, Essex and parts of Hertfordshire into tier three from Wednesday, amid concerns of a new strain of the virus contributing to a rise in cases.

Hancock said in the south-east of England cases were up 46 per cent in the last week, hospital admissions are up by more than a third.

In the east of England cases are up two-thirds in the last week, and hospital admissions are up by nearly half, he said.

However, MacAnthony strongly disagreed with the Government's approach to Covid, adding: "People choose to live the way they want to live. Constantly locking them up, making their businesses unsustainable is impossible & doesn't work.

"This is the Government. Vaccine now here; get it to those who need it urgently/keep them safe & stop with the over reach."

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.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the tier changes in areas of the south-east and east were necessary due to rising case and hospital admission rates
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the tier changes in areas of the south-east and east were necessary due to rising case and hospital admission rates (House of Commons/PA)

Bristol Rovers would therefore have been able to welcome fans for their Sky Bet League One match against Oxford on Saturday, but the game has been postponed due to a Covid outbreak.

The news means only four Premier League clubs – Brighton, Everton, Liverpool and Southampton – are able to admit supporters from Saturday.

Hancock said: "We've come so far, we mustn't blow it now.

"No one wants tougher restrictions any longer than necessary, but where they are necessary we must put them in place to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and protect life."

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