First Copa del Rey final will be without fans, Spanish federation confirms

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MADRID: The postponed Spanish Copa del Rey final from last year will be played without fans, the Spanish football federation confirmed on Thursday.

Reports in Spain had suggested a 20% to 25% capacity could be allowed for the match in Seville next month between Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad.

The final was postponed last year because of the coronavirus pandemic and then put off to April 3, in the hope supporters could attend the much-anticipated derby.

But the federation has said the final will still take place behind closed doors, with travel restrictions in Spain ensuring local Bilbao and La Real fans would not be able to go.

A statement from the federation said the regional Health Ministry in Andalusia had identified a “moderate risk” if the fixture was opened up to the public.

It added: “The current situation with the virus and the established measures that ensure the restriction of travel, including for both the autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville, mean it would not be feasible for fans not living in the province to attend the game.”

The federation are still to confirm whether this year’s Copa del Rey final between Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona will also go ahead without fans.

That game is scheduled to take place on April 17, two weeks after the 2020 final, also at La Cartuja stadium in Seville.

Suggestions that supporters could be allowed to attend the finals were rejected on Wednesday by Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias.

“Let me be clear and blunt. It is not appropriate. It is not timely and it is not convenient,” Darias told a press conference.

The Covid-19 infection rate has increased slightly in several regions recently which may mean that a weeks-long decline in the national infection rate has bottomed out, she added.

Yet La Liga president Javier Tebas said he hoped some fans could return to league matches in late April.

“It’s been a year, we’ve learned a lot, and we hope that by the third week of April we can start to have a percentage back in the stadiums,” Tebas told a press breakfast, adding “if circumstances allow”.

Spain has suffered more than three million Covid-19 cases and 72,565 deaths.

Spaniards traditionally take holidays in the week running up to Easter Sunday, which falls on April 4 this year.

“Everyone is cautiously watching Easter, a key moment to see how things are going,” said Tebas, adding that it would provide an indication of whether fans could return to La Liga matches.

“We all hope that after Easter we can set a quick date.”

Tebas was echoing a sentiment expressed by Irene Lozano, the Spanish Secretary of State for Sports, who said recently: “If we see that a fourth wave has not started, we can begin to raise very important questions for fans, supporters and the clubs themselves.”

Spectators have been barred from top-flight Spanish football matches since March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. – AFP





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