The Spanish Government has approved the removal of restrictions relating to fan attendance in the country’s football and basketball venues, with Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, stating this should allow for a “return to normality” for the start of the new domestic seasons.

The announcement yesterday (Thursday) represents potentially the definitive step towards a return to full capacity stadia and arenas, although no capacity targets or figures were outlined. Darias explained that it will be up to Spain’s autonomous communities to determine venue capacity limits in their local areas.

Darias added: “We return to normality in terms of the influx of public to the stadiums of the Professional Football League, for the start of LaLiga and also of (basketball’s Liga) ACB. I am convinced that this is news that will be very well accepted for all sport across this country.”

Two LaLiga clubs welcomed fans back to their stadia on the weekend of May 16-17, with the Spanish football league calling for more flexibility from the health authorities to allow supporters to attend matches across the country.

Earlier, 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 on May 17, while 3,000 supporters attended Valencia’s 4-1 victory against Eibar the previous day. May 16 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.

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. Only teams located in Phase 1 areas of Spain – where the COVID-19 infection rate is less than 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – had been permitted to allow fans.

Spain is also a host country for the ongoing UEFA European Championships, which got underway on June 11. Four matches were scheduled for Seville’s Estadio La Cartuja, which has replaced Bilbao’s San Mamés as Spain’s host venue after the latter was dropped amid uncertainty over its ability to welcome fans.

Estadio La Cartuja hosted Spain’s three group stage matches and will stage Belgium and Portugal’s Round of 16 fixture on Sunday. The stadium was granted permission to open at 30% capacity for the tournament, equating to around 16,000 fans.

LaLiga president, Javier Tebas, this week confirmed that the losses of Spanish clubs due to COVID-19 have exceeded €750m (£644.1m/$895.8m), with the main impact being loss of matchday revenue. Commenting on yesterday’s announcement, Tebas told Spanish newspaper Marca: “This is great news, we are already reaching the end of the tunnel.”

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