Southampton, Brighton home games pushed behind closed doors

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(Reuters) - Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion's home games have been pushed behind closed doors after several regions in England were placed in the toughest tier of COVID-19 restrictions, both Premier League clubs said on Wednesday.

Southampton and Brighton were among the top-flight clubs who were allowed to welcome back 2,000 fans earlier this month after they fell into areas initially classified as Tier 2 or high alert regions when a month-long national lockdown was lifted.

But the British government said on Wednesday that Sussex plus the city of Southampton and most of Hampshire would join London and neighbouring areas in Tier 4 from Dec. 26 in a bid to curb the spread of a more transmissible variant of COVID-19. Those in Tier 4 are advised to stay and work at home and can only go out for essential activities.

Both clubs' next home fixtures will be on Dec. 29, with Southampton hosting West Ham United and Brighton welcoming Arsenal. Those matches will now be staged without any fans present.

Merseyside clubs Everton and Liverpool are the only two Premier League clubs who can still host up to 2,000 spectators.

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)