Away fans can return to Champions League games

Away fans will again be able to attend UEFA Champions League matches, European football’s governing body has confirmed.

The UEFA Executive Committee has approved amendments to the fifth edition of the UEFA Return to Play Protocol, which sets out the framework of sanitary and hygiene-related procedures as well as operational protocols to be applied when staging UEFA competition matches.

UEFA said that with respect to the medical principles, the amendments are a result of the ongoing vaccination campaigns across Europe and the decision of many countries to allow vaccinated and recovered individuals to freely move across borders and attend public events without further testing.

With regard to the operational principles, the changes approved have been proposed following the experiences gathered across more than 2,000 UEFA competition matches now successfully played.

Some 5% of the total allowed stadium capacity will be reserved to fans of the away team at Champions League, Europa League and other UEFA-sanctioned games, subject to local rules. It was also decided to remove the mandatory distancing requirements in outdoor working areas.

The decision comes ahead of the beginning of the Champions League group stage next week.

A UEFA spokesperson said: “In line with the adaptations to the Protocol, the exchange of tickets for the fans of visiting teams is no longer forbidden.”

While UEFA competitions returned in the summer of 2020 after the initial COVID-19 lockdown, games were initially played behind closed doors. A 30% capacity attendance cap was then implemented in October 2020 although fans were still unable to attend in many countries due to differing rules.

Fans were allowed at all UEFA Euro 2020 games, with the final at Wembley taking place in front of a full crowd. Full stadiums have also been allowed at European club games in recent months, although away support has been prohibited until now with a view to minimising travel and the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

Image: Ekansh Saxena on Unsplash