Rio Mayor rejects talk of fans return to football stadia

The city and state government in Rio de Janeiro have released guidelines for the return of fans to stadiums, but Mayor Eduardo Paes has moved swiftly to state he will prevent any such move amid a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Different capacity restrictions have been announced depending on the local COVID-19 infection rate. If the COVID-19 risk is deemed moderate, stadiums would be able to open at 20% capacity; if the risk is ‘high’, venues can operate at 10% and if the risk is ‘too high’ no fans will be allowed at all.

Rio’s famous Maracanã stadium (pictured) is located in a ‘high risk’ region, which in theory would mean that 7,800 fans would be able to attend matches at the 78,000-capacity venue.

However, it seems unlikely that fans will be permitted at grounds following a tweet by Paes yesterday (Wednesday) which read: “The decision to release open stadiums with a (maximum) capacity of 1/10 is technically correct according to our health department.

“However, it is obviously a measure that is almost impossible to monitor. The measure will be revoked.”

Fans have not attended football matches in Rio de Janeiro since last March, at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. The last game with fans in attendance was on March 11, a Copa Libertadores clash between Flamengo and Ecuadorian club Barcelona SC.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) this month confirmed that the delayed 2020 Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana campaigns will conclude behind closed doors later this month.

Following their suspension last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Libertadores final will be held at the Maracanã on January 30, with the Sudamericana concluding at Córdoba’s Estadio Mario Kempes on January 23.

Any return of fans to domestic competitions would need the approval of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), which has previously indicated that this would only happen with blanket agreement among the 20 Serie A clubs.

Image: Aerea100/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size