UEFA has confirmed that the remainder of the 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League seasons, including the new ‘final eight’ tournaments in Portugal and Germany, will be played out behind closed doors, while the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) has issued guidelines designed to allow fans back to its stadia.
The decision from the Executive Committee of European football’s governing body comes after it announced last month that Lisbon and Cologne will host the finals of tournaments to conclude this season’s Champions League and Europa League.
For the Champions League, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final will be played as a final eight straight knock-out tournament at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica and the Estádio José Alvalade in Lisbon between August 12-23.
For the Europa League, the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final will be played as a final eight straight knock-out tournament in the German cities of Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf and Gelsenkirchen between August 10-21.
A plan was also drawn up to conclude the 2019-20 Women’s Champions League season. A final eight straight knock-out tournament will be staged in Spain at the San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao and the Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastián from August 21-30.
At the time, UEFA said it would regularly assessing the situation across the continent and will liaise with local authorities to see when spectators could gradually return. UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin added that a decision on this front would likely be made at the beginning of July, and this has now been announced.
UEFA said: “Several elements were taken into account by UEFA when making a decision, such as the protection of the health of all those involved in the matches as well as the public at large; a responsibility to provide the safest environment for matches in order to guarantee the progress of competitions; as well as ensuring sporting fairness within a very inconsistent landscape (with some countries allowing and some forbidding stadium attendances).
“Consequently, in light of the current situation, the UEFA Executive Committee felt it prudent to conclude that UEFA matches should take place behind closed doors until further notice. This decision was made in agreement with the national associations and authorities of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League, 2019-20 UEFA Europa League and 2019-20 UEFA Women’s Champions League final eight tournaments’ hosts Portugal, Germany and Spain.”
UEFA has also decided that the remaining Champions League and Europa League Round of 16 second-leg matches will be played at the home teams’ stadia, subject to ongoing public health advice.
Meanwhile, the KNVB has outlined its protocol for staging games with fans in attendance, while respecting the 1.5 metres social distancing rules in place in the Netherlands. With the 2019-20 Eredivisie season having been terminated in April due to COVID-19, the guidelines will apply to the 2020-21 campaign.
On June 24, the government announced that from July 1, football matches can be held with fans in attendance, as long as spectators stay 1.5 metres apart. The new guidelines cater to four different types of spectator groups.
The KNVB states that if a section is filled with fans who attend a game individually, this can have a capacity of 15% to 20%. If spectators from the same household come in groups of two or three, this rises to 25% to 30%. For groups of people aged 18 and under, capacity guidelines rise to 35%.
However, clubs will only be able to sell tickets for seated areas of a stadium, away fans will be banned at present, and food and drink will need to be served to spectators in their seats. The KNVB also said it would seek to work with ‘field labs’ to develop best practice, with the Eindhovens Dagblad newspaper reporting that PSV’s Philips Stadion has been identified as one of these test centres.
The KNVB noted: “On April 21, the cabinet banned professional football until September 1, but two months later it was already determined that these restrictions would be relaxed two months earlier.
“The latter announcement completely skipped the stage in which football should be played without an audience. So it can go very fast and that also applies to medical and technical developments.
“We are in full swing, but should things go wrong locally, regionally or nationally in the near future, we can immediately switch back to the protocols that have already been drawn up. This way we keep maximum control of the situation.”