Spain considering reopening soccer stadiums to public before July 19

Health authorities say they are evaluating the risk of allowing open matches once all regions have passed into Phase 3 of the coronavirus deescalation plan

Health Minister Salvador Illa (r) holds a video conference with several soccer players.
Health Minister Salvador Illa (r) holds a video conference with several soccer players.Oficina de Prensa el Consejo Sup / EFE

The Spanish Health Ministry is considering allowing the public to attend soccer matches in stadiums before the season comes to an end on July 19.

According to Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, areas in Phase 3 of the coronavirus deescalation plan – the final stage before the beginning of the so-called “new normality – might be permitted to hold public games.

“The ministry is committed to evaluating the risks. And in the case of [areas in] Phase 3, depending on the epidemiological situation, if it can be done, it will be done,” said Simón on Tuesday.

The statement was made after a videoconference with Health Minister Salvador Illa, Secretary of Sport Irene Lozano and soccer players Gerard Piqué, Dani Carvajal, Jorge Resurrección Merodio, better known as Koke in the sporting world, and Asier Illarramendi.

Depending on the epidemiological situation, if it can be done, it will be done
Fernando Simón, director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts

Currently, only the Canary islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and La Graciosa, and the Balearic island of Formentera are in Phase 3. But more than half of the country may join the islands on June 8, when the next phase change is scheduled to take place. Madrid and Barcelona, the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, could enter Phase 3 on June 22, with eight days left in the soccer season.

By the time the videoconference took place, institutional steps were already being taken to stop Miguel Ángel Ramírez in his tracks, after the president of the second-division UD Las Palmas soccer team announced a deal with the regional government of the Canary Islands and the local authorities in Gran Canaria to allow around 10,000 spectators into the Gran Canaria stadium on June 13 for the Las Palmas-Girona match.

The plans for the open match came on the back of the government’s own recent announcement that it would allow regions in Phase 3 to make their own deescalation decisions. Devolving these powers to the regions helped secure congressional support for the last extension to the state of alarm, but it also created a legal loophole that some sports teams were quick to exploit.

On Tuesday, government sources said that fans will not be allowed into stadiums until all regions of Spain are in the same phase and when all clubs can play in similar conditions.

Government sources said that besides the health reasons, it would be unfair for some clubs to be able to play in front of their fans and not others depending on the region’s epidemiological situation. The Higher Sports Council (CSD) feels similarly. “It does not seem like the most appropriate thing to preserve the integrity of competition,” said a source at this agency. “In this, there is not going to be an asymmetrical deescalation.”

Several other soccer clubs in areas that are about to enter Phase 3 are waiting to see what happens, to determine whether they can open talks with their regional governments and allow fans into their stadiums. Sources at LaLiga, the men’s top professional division in Spanish soccer, have already said that it cannot be done.

The president of UD Las Palmas said that his plan would help send out the message that “the Canaries are back to normal” and that it would help reactivate the tourism industry. But he added that “UD Las Palmas is not going to create conflict with any institution. If the Canaries region has power over this and approves this, but the CSD disagrees, I won’t do it. I don’t want any trouble.”

English version by Melissa Kitson and Susana Urra.

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