Fans return in Spain as LaLiga calls for more flexibility

Two LaLiga clubs welcomed fans back to their stadiums at the weekend, with the Spanish football league calling for more flexibility from the health authorities to allow supporters to attend matches across the country.

Last week, Spanish Culture and Sports Minister José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes gave the green light for spectators to attend matches in regions where COVID-19 infection rates are low. Stadiums have been limited to open at 30% capacity, or with a maximum of 5,000 fans.

The announcement allowed Villarreal to welcome 5,000 fans for its 4-0 win over Sevilla yesterday (Sunday), while 3,000 supporters attended Valencia’s 4-1 victory against Eibar. Levante, Elche and Celta Vigo will be able to welcome fans this weekend under the current guidelines.

Yesterday marked the first time that fans had attended a LaLiga match since March 2020. Only home fans were permitted and supporters had their temperature checked before entering the stadium, with mask wearing also required.

In the second-tier Segunda División, fans also attended matches at CD Castellón, CD Lugo and RCD Mallorca.

Ahead of the weekend’s fixtures, LaLiga issued a statement urging the Spanish health authorities to be more flexible with how COVID-19 lockdown tiers influence fan attendance. Currently, only teams located in Phase 1 areas of Spain – where the COVID-19 infection rate is less than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – can allow fans.

LaLiga is hoping these restrictions can be looked at to ensure that fan attendance reaches more clubs in the “shortest possible time”.

LaLiga said in a statement: “Being fully aware that the health crisis has not yet ended, LaLiga wants to express its desire that the return of fans be generalised and made more flexible in the shortest possible time, extending the assistance permits to other autonomous communities, if so decided by themselves.

“LaLiga matches will follow a strict protocol, with very demanding measures, even more so than those followed by other sports and other events which do allow the public to enter their facilities, which is why we consider this decision incoherent.”

The areas of Spain currently in Phase 1 of COVID-19 restrictions are Valencia, Galicia, Balearic Islands and Murcia.

Image: Frank94Rock/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size (stadium pictured pre-pandemic)