Fans' return to stadiums imminent in Italy and Spain while Premier League looks to September

Luke Edwards
Napoli's fans deploy a giant banner showing Argentinian football star Diego Maradona before the Italian Serie A football match Napoli vs Juventus - CARLO HERMANN/AFP

Italy and Spain have unveiled plans to allow supporters back into stadiums to watch their teams play as the Premier League continues to look at a variety of options to do the same next season.

Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, confirmed it was looking at proposals to allow fans to attend live games from September onwards, but would not reveal any details in a typically cagey interview.

But in Italy and Spain, where coronavirus cases are on a sharper downward curve, reopening stadiums is already being publicly discussed, with speculation the grounds will be allowed to open at a third of their normal capacity, with one in three seats occupied, in order to ensure social distancing rules can be obeyed.

Fans will be heat tested before entering the stadium to check whether they are showing any symptoms and there will be hand-sanitising stations at every entrance.

Italian football, which is due to resume the Coppa Italia on June 13, four days before the first Premier League match is scheduled, is even looking at ways for fans to attend from the start of the season resumption. “We are reflecting on it, certainly, because it’s only right to take another step forward after the reopening,” said the Lecce president, Saverio Sticchi Damiani.

“I think that, if possible, it would be good to create a rotation between our 20,000 season-ticket holders, obviously blocking the sale of new tickets. We have a 30,000-seat stadium in Lecce, so it would be nice to offer some of our fans – in rotation – a little entertainment, always obviously following necessary precautions and guaranteeing social distancing.”

The Italian government is unlikely to intervene as it has already ruled that events holding as many as 300 people will be allowed to take place in a closed setting like a cinema or concert hall, with up to 1,000 attending open air events.

The majority of Italy’s coronavirus cases were contained in the north of the country and the Italians endured a far stricter lockdown as the healthcare system was initially overrun.

The Corriere dello Sport notes that if a seat is 45cm wide, then one of every three seats could theoretically be filled while allowing for social distancing.

If the same rules were applied in the Premier League, in theory Manchester United’s Old Trafford would be allowed to hold a crowd of around 25,000, Liverpool’s Anfield’s capacity would be reduced to around 18,000 and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium could take around 20,000.

These would have to be made up entirely of home fans, chosen for each fixture via a ballot or on a rota basis, as the police would not accept away fans travelling to and from games.

In Spain, the long-term plan may well be even bolder, with reports that La Liga will open stadiums to 20 per cent of capacity when next season starts in September, increasing to 50 per cent in November and back to full capacity in January.

Much, though, will depend on whether a second coronavirus wave – which many predict will happen – hits the country in the autumn or winter.

Poland, Russia and Serbia have already announced their plans to reopen stadiums to approximately 25 per cent capacity from June.