The Italian Government has approved upgrades in capacity levels for outdoor and indoor sporting venues, with the hope that football stadia will be able to return to full capacity before the end of the month.

The announcement was made following a Council of Ministers meeting yesterday (Thursday) evening under the chairmanship of President Mario Draghi. The measures include wider COVID-19 reopening plans for the cultural and recreational sectors.

However for sport, from October 11, capacities allowed will increase to 75% for outdoor venues and 60% for indoor facilities. The latter is up from the expected figure of 50% amid a push from basketball and volleyball clubs to get more fans in their arenas.

In August, Italian football authorities welcomed a change in rules from the Government that allowed the country’s stadia to effectively operate at 50% capacity when the new season commenced. The Italian Government in July announced its guidance for fans to return to sporting venues, with the use of a COVID-19 ‘Green Pass’ required to enter stadia and arenas.

The Government set out capacity limits for sporting venues, with fans only able to attend if their region sits in the lesser two of the four colour zones. In white regions, permitted capacities could not exceed 50% for outdoor venues and 25% for indoor arenas. In yellow regions, this limit fell to 25% capacity, capped at 2,500 for outdoor venues and 1,000 for indoor.

However, with these capacity limits also came a one metre social distancing requirement. This led to complaints that clubs would effectively only be able to operate at a maximum of 25-30% capacity, providing a further hit to matchday income streams.

The Council of Ministers approved a change to these rules proposed by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), and supported by Lega Serie A, swapping out the one metre rule for a ‘checkerboard’ system which aimed to ensure one seat is left unoccupied between groups of fans. Capacity for indoor sports such as basketball and volleyball was also raised from 25% to 35%.

The changes announced yesterday will apply to those regions in the white areas. However, looking forward, Undersecretary for Sport, Valentina Vezzali, expressed optimism that stadia could soon progress beyond the 75% limit.

Speaking at the Trento Sports Festival, she said: “I hope that in 15 days the outdoor facilities will be full.”

Image: Tarkus42/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size