Portugal scraps plans to allow fans for final football matchday

Liga Portugal says supporters will not be allowed to attend final round of domestic league fixtures because it was ‘impossible to prepare’.

Liga Portugal had planned access to stadiums, limited to 10 percent capacity, and exclusively reserved for fans of the home side for the 2020/2021 season's concluding matches [File: Pedro Nunes/Reuters]

Portugal’s football league has scrapped plans to welcome fans back into stadiums for the final round of fixtures on Wednesday.

Liga Portugal had planned to allow people back to stadiums with some conditions – a limited 10 percent capacity, and seats exclusively reserved for fans of the home side.

Attendees were set to be asked to show proof of a negative coronavirus test upon entry.

But Liga Portugal backtracked because it was “impossible to prepare” for the return of fans in a safe manner in such a small timeframe, it said in a statement on Monday.

“In today’s meeting, Board members unanimously decided that conditions will not be met for test-pilot events to take place and thus they are not authorising the return of fans,” Liga Portugal said.

Kick-off times for the 34th and final round of games were only agreed upon on Monday.

“Given the uncertainty remaining about the conditions that health authorities will put in place, it would be impossible to prepare an implementation plan just one day before the games take place,” the statement continued.

Liga Portugal added its decision was “compounded by the fact that the penultimate round of games did not have any fans in the stadiums”.

“Now, given different objectives are still up in the air, allowing only one of the teams to have fans in the ground would be a grave distortion of sporting integrity and fairness amongst the sides.”

The statement did, however, confirm the league would begin talks with relevant authorities to ensure fans could return to grounds for the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

Earlier this month, Sporting Lisbon won their first Primeira Liga title since 2002 but the relegation places are yet to be decided with three points separating second-bottom Farense from Portimonense in 14th. Nacional has already been relegated.

This is the first season where there will be a relegation play-off, with the team that finishes third from bottom pitted against the third-placed team in the second division.

The move to bar fans for the final round of league fixtures came less than two weeks before Porto’s Estadio do Dragao stadium will host this season’s Champions League final on May 29, between English clubs Manchester City and Chelsea.

European football’s showpiece event was scheduled to be in Istanbul, but UEFA shifted the final to Porto after Turkey was placed on the United Kingdom government’s red list for travel, meaning English fans would not have been able to attend.

The 50,000-seater stadium will house 6,000 supporters from each team.

Meanwhile, Portugal on Monday allowed British tourists to re-enter without undertaking a period of quarantine.

Portugal is also on the UK’s green list for travel, which does not involve a mandatory quarantine period as long as a negative coronavirus test is shown.

The countries now have two of the lowest virus rates in Europe, but have suffered immensely with infections, hospitalisations and deaths during the peaks of the pandemic, before vaccines were rolled out.

Portugal’s economy relies heavily on tourism, but visitor numbers plunged last year as the health crisis deepened.

The country welcomed 16.4 million tourists in 2019, before coronavirus struck. Only a quarter as many visitors arrived in 2020.

Source: News Agencies