Europe divided on sports fan attendance as COVID-19 rages across nations

A young fan looks on during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield, Liverpool, England, August 24, 2019. /CFP

A young fan looks on during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield, Liverpool, England, August 24, 2019. /CFP

Plans to contain a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe were thrown into confusion on Tuesday as countries clashed over the time frame for returning the sports world to some semblance of normality. 

In a further sign of a divided Europe, football supporters in the UK could be allowed to return to stadiums to watch matches as early as next month, while fans in France won’t be permitted to sporting events until the beginning of 2021. 

According to multiple British media outlets, officials at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have submitted proposals to the Cabinet Office for spectators to attend games, once the second national lockdown is lifted. 

British Prime Minister , who was forced to self-isolate for two weeks because a contact tested positive for the coronavirus, has promised to get fans back into stadiums when the lockdown is lifted next month.

Europe divided on sports fan attendance as COVID-19 rages across nations

British Prime Minister vows to get fans back into stadiums after the country comes out of the lockdown on December 2, 2020. /CFP

British Prime Minister vows to get fans back into stadiums after the country comes out of the lockdown on December 2, 2020. /CFP

“I pledge that when we come out of lockdown on December 2 we will work to have the crowds to come back,” he said last week. “Don’t run away with it but we need to do much better and bring the fans back.” 

The stance was echoed by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who hosted a 90-minute “virtual future of football” summit on Tuesday. 

“I want to work together with football to make progress on important issues for the game’s long-term future,” he said on Twitter after the meeting. “Discussions to continue as we start our fan-led review of governance.” 

However, concerns at the prospect of fans returning to stadiums were rising given the raging coronavirus. In Germany, the Bundesliga allowed fans to come back only to reverse the decision in October when the infection rates skyrocketed. 

Both Italy and Spain have long abandoned their plans to allow fan attendance as the two countries recorded their highest daily death tolls of the second wave over the past 24 hours. 

Europe divided on sports fan attendance as COVID-19 rages across nations

Manchester United’s Edinson Cavani celebrates during a Premier League match against Everton at an empty Goodison Park, Liverpool, England, November 7, 2020. /CFP

Manchester United’s Edinson Cavani celebrates during a Premier League match against Everton at an empty Goodison Park, Liverpool, England, November 7, 2020. /CFP

The UK is also trending in the wrong direction. A weekly report by the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of people dying with COVID-19 rose by 40 percent in the first week of November when the virus accounted for one in every six deaths in England and Wales and killed more people than at any time since May. 

French President called on Tuesday in a video conference that a return of spectators in sports stadiums “is not possible in December” considering the recent surge in coronavirus cases and even in early 2021, the number of fans in stadiums will be “limited” if possible. 

According to French newspaper L’Equipe, Macron also unveiled a 100 million euro plan for next year to finance a “sports pass” encouraging young people to take up athletic activities, for example by paying club dues or buying equipment. 

The funds could prove a lifeline for clubs, especially lower down the pyramid, who have been hammered by the pandemic and are desperate for the revenue provided by matchday tickets.

Europe divided on sports fan attendance as COVID-19 rages across nations

French President announces a new partial lockdown as the government tries to tamp down the resurgent coronavirus, November 17, 2020. /CFP

French President announces a new partial lockdown as the government tries to tamp down the resurgent coronavirus, November 17, 2020. /CFP

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Nations League clash with Switzerland was canceled hours before the scheduled kickoff on Tuesday after six players tested positive for COVID-19. 

It is the second Nations League cancellation in a week. On Sunday, Norway’s away game against Romania was also put on hold following the quarantining of the Norwegian team by the health authorities due to a positive test. 

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