Three European football leagues have outlined plans to allow some fans to attend matches when play resumes.

Hungary, Poland and Russia will each open their stadiums to a limited number of supporters. Other than Belarus, where football has continued throughout, fans have not been able to attend league matches in Europe since the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of events across the continent in March.

Here are more details about the end of lockdown…

 

Hungary

Nemzeti Bajnokság, the top tier of Hungarian football, will today set a first for Europe by returning fans to its stadia.

Last week, the Hungarian Football Federation (MLSZ) became one of the first national associations in Europe to resume its domestic football season when, on May 23, the men’s competitions which involve qualification for next season’s European club tournaments returned to action, albeit behind closed doors.

The 2019-20 Nemzeti Bajnokság campaign was initially suspended due to COVID-19 on March 16 and the league is understood to be the first on the continent to return fans mid-season. The MLSZ gave the green light to the scheme yesterday, with today’s match between the bottom two clubs, Kapsovar and ZTE, to the be the first match with fans in attendance.

Social distancing rules will apply with no more than one seat in four used, and every second row of a stand remaining empty. Kaspovar’s stadium usually holds up to 7,000 fans and league attendance averages out at 3,000.

 

Poland

The Polish top-tier PKO Ekstraklasa resumes today some 81 days after the competition was halted, with Śląsk Wrocław facing Raków Częstochowa behind closed doors.

However, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and national football chiefs have today (Friday) outlined plans to allow clubs in the top three divisions to open their stadiums at 25-per-cent capacity from June 19.

Morawiecki said safety would be assured at stadiums through the provision of masks, disinfectant liquids and the maintenance of distance between fans.

Only home fans will be allowed to attend while tickets will be sold online to avoid grouping at stadiums.

Zbigniew Boniek, the former Juventus player who is now the president of the Polish Football Association, told reporters: “We will be the first country to develop a protocol allowing fans to participate in football matches. Here the government strongly supported us.”

Details as to how clubs will allocate tickets have still to be announced, however most regular attendees should be able to secure seats as the stadium occupancy rate is low in Poland.

Legia Warsaw have the highest average attendance so far in 2019-20 with 20,995, but even their occupancy rate is only around two-thirds of their 31,000-capacity Polish Army Stadium. Lech Poznan’s figure is around a third of capacity while Lechia Gdansk is below a quarter.

 

Russia

Meanwhile, the Russian Football Union (RFU) has reached an agreement with the state consumer health watchdog to allow fans into the Premier League’s (RPL) stadia when its 2019-20 season resumes on June 21.

The targeted return date was announced earlier this month, but at the time it was stated that matches would be held behind closed doors.

However, stadia are now set to be allowed to operate at 10% capacity, subject to sanitary conditions being met. In theory, this will allow the RPL’s largest stadium, Zenit Saint Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena, to allow 6,780 fans to attend games.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said that the experience of the RPL’s resumption will be used to help return other sporting events.

“We will look at the experience of the RPL in order to further scale a similar package of measures to other sports competitions and return sports to our lives as quickly as possible, while taking care of the health of athletes, workers and fans,” he said, according to state news agency Tass.

Image: MLSZ (Twitter)