The Easter weekend marks the beginning of the end for the European football season, with this campaign being perhaps the strangest in history.
In many of Europe’s top leagues, no fans have been able to attend matches at all because of coronavirus restrictions. In other countries, a small number of supporters have been allowed in.
Vaccine rollouts across the continent had offered hope that the situation might change before the end of this season, though a third wave of the pandemic is beginning to take hold.
So, where do we stand in different European countries when it comes to fans’ return?
The long-awaited Copa del Rey final – held over from last season in the anticipation that fans could attend – between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club took place behind closed doors in Seville. This season’s final between Barcelona and Athletic is likely to have the same fate.
No fans have attended LaLiga matches over the course of the campaign. LaLiga president Javier Tebas is keen to change this.
“We hope that in the third week of April we can start to have a percentage [of supporters] in the stadiums,” Tebas said on March 17. “We all hope that after Easter we will be able to set a quick date.”
The UK has made greater progress with its COVID-19 vaccination programme than many of its European counterparts. Over 31 million British people have been inoculated so far and lockdown restrictions are being eased.
Plans are already in place for a number of pilot events, which will test the safety of sporting events with crowds. The first of those for football will be on April 18, when 4,000 Wembley locals will attend the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester and Southampton.
On April 25, 8,000 people will attend the Carabao Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham at Wembley. On May 15, 21,000 fans will attend the FA Cup final at Wembley. All those attending will have to either test negative for COVID-19, have been vaccinated or have already gained immunity from having the virus.
From May 17, all football stadiums in England will be able to welcome half of their capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 fans. From June 23, restrictions are due to be lifted, leaving big crowds able to attend the final stages of Euro 2020 at Wembley, depending on the infection rate at the time.
Germany, France and Italy
The Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A may be without supporters for the remainder of the 2020/21 season. Germany is expecting that to be the case, at least.
“Mo one at [the league] or the clubs wants to have games without fans either,” said Christian Seifert, the CEO of the Germany Football League. “However, we still have them because they are the only permitted option for hosting games, and presumably we will have them until the end of the season.”
Strict COVID-19 restrictions are in place in France and Italy over rising infection rates. The former is under lockdown until the end of April, while the latter was under lockdown over the Easter weekend.