The government on Wednesday announced a reduction in the number of fans allowed in grounds. Initially 5,000 had been permitted but rising Covid cases (from roughly 500 daily to more than 10,000) prompted a change to a maximum of 1,000. Clubs including Monaco, Lille and Bordeaux will allow 1,000 spectators this weekend, whereas Nice will play behind closed doors for the foreseeable future at their own volition; PSG said they too would not allow fans but reports have indicated their president, Nasser al-Khelaifi, will have the final say. Marseille, a coronavirus hotspot, had been given a government order to play behind closed doors but a local government directive has cleared them to have 1,000 fans at Saturday’s game against Metz.
Football in front of fans has got off to a wobbly start to say the least. Ligue 1 was the biggest league in Europe to curtail last season and the first match of the new campaign was beset by problems, with Saint-Étienne’s trip to Marseille postponed owing to a rash of positive cases among the hosts’ squad. At the time, the league’s policy was that matches could not be played if more than three players tested positive but that has been adjusted to allow games if 20 out of 30 players in a squad tested negative. Eric Devin
Three days before the start of the season, Bundesliga clubs were given the go-ahead to welcome back crowds to a maximum of 20% of stadium capacity. This was by no means a hard and fast rule – and it couldn’t be, with clubs bound by the health and safety rules set by their federal state. So Borussia Dortmund had 9,300 – less than an eighth of capacity – for their season opener against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday, whereas state authorities decided late on to bar spectators from matches at Bayern Munich and Köln in response to rising rates of infection.
A survey by the broadcaster ARD this week in which 63% of those polled – not all football fans – were in favour of the return of fans suggested a shift in the national mood, but many supporters are lukewarm. Some ultras have declined to go back and Dynamo Dresden’s ultras this week said they would not create an “active atmosphere” or do choreographies while restrictions remained. Gladbach have tickets unsold for their 10,000-capacity weekend match with Union Berlin, as distancing measures leave friends and family members separated. The current six-week run with fans is a trial period, and clearly there are plenty of issues to iron out. Andy Brassell
Serie A teams were allowed 1,000 fans on the opening weekend, though the decision came so late that not all managed it. The sports minister, Vincenzo Spadafora, confirmed the regulations on Saturday – the day the season began.
He had announced one day earlier that the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome would be allowed that number for its semi-finals and final – marking a new policy for open-air sporting competitions. Events quickly overtook him, as the regional government in Emilia-Romagna interpreted this as meaning it could allow fans into football games that same weekend at Parma and Sassuolo. Spadafora had only intended for the inital decision to cover one-off events rather than ongoing ones such as a league season but ultimately extended the rule to cover all of Serie A.
The government hopes to increase the number of fans in stadiums soon, and the deputy health minister, Pierpaolo Sileri, has suggested teams may be allowed something close to one-third of capacity. The government hopes to increase the number of fans in stadiums soon. Regional leaders were consulted on Thursday and a proposal is being carried forward to allow for Serie A stadiums to be filled to 25% of their capacity, pending scrutiny from the government’s scientific committee. Nicky Bandini
At the back end of last season La Liga had begun preparing a protocol for fans to return to stadiums with the hope of 30% occupation in the first couple of months of the new season, but that has been put on hold indefinitely. With Covid numbers rising, Madrid subjected to heavy restrictions and likely to face another lockdown, and other regions seeing cases rise, few are even contemplating the return of supporters. It hasn’t even been much of a subject of debate, still less something that has been pushed. Indeed, rather than being celebrated, Sevilla playing the European Super Cup in front of fans this week was greeted with caution and concern.
Outside the first and second division, in what is usually called “amateur” football (even though it is not), clubs are set to be allowed to grant access to small numbers of fans (fewer than 1,000) depending on the health authorities in each province, although those leagues do not start until October and the plans are yet to be confirmed. In the top two divisions, by contrast, no one anticipates opening doors before Christmas. Sid Lowe
In Budapest last weekend 7,000 people watched Ferencvaros thump Paksi 5-0 at the Groupama Arena. Hungarian football has been open to fans since the beginning of June and the capital’s other main stadium, the Puskas Arena, hosted the European Super Cup on Thursday with 20,000 fans in situ. Hungary has seen a dramatic growth in coronavirus cases since August. Hungarian rules require three out of four seats in a given stadia to be left empty and for every other row to be left clear.
In the Netherlands, fans have been allowed back into grounds as well but rules require that they not only comply with social distancing but refrain from chanting. In Denmark, crowds have also returned but in very small numbers: 240 watched Copenhagen’s home defeat by Brøndby last weekend.
On the other side of the world, Brazilian authorities this week announced their intention to fill their stadiums to a third of capacity, meaning up to 25,000 people could attend the Maracanã. There is no set date for fans’ return, however, with Brazil still in the middle of one of the world’s worst outbreaks of Covid-19. Paul MacInnes