Fans Arrive for UEFA’s First Open Match, UEFA and Hungary to Evaluate Decision


Fill Me In

Stadiums have been empty for most of the year, as COVID-19 social distancing measures have prevented large gatherings to prevent the transmission of the highly contagious virus.

Things are changing, however, as football fans began arriving in Budapest, Hungary for the opening match of UEFA’s Super Cup played this year by Champions League winners Bayern Munich of Germany, and Europa League champions Sevilla of Spain.

Safety first

UEFA has designated only filling the stadium at one-third its nominal capacity of 67,000, and has other measures put in place for its spectators. On the UEFA website, strict rules for ticketholders included keeping 1.5 metres away from other spectators, wearing a mask at all times within the stadium, and undergoing body temperature checks before entry.

Foreign ticket holders were also encouraged to undergo a medical examination upon entry into Hungary. They must also present their official match ticket and proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed within the past three days before entering the country. Foreign spectators must then leave the territory of Hungary within 72 hours from their entry.

Fans still want in

Despite the strict rules, football fans were excited at the opportunity to catch one of the biggest matches this year ‘live’.

Jan Tanne flew into Budapest for 24 hours for the game to support Bayern Munich, and had no worries about the risk of infection. “The security concept of the game is good so I guess if you honour the rules and stay 1.5 metres away from other people and avoid big crowds, then I guess there is no problem to watch the game,” he said.

Local fans also jumped at the opportunity to watch a game that would otherwise cost a lot to travel to. Chairman of the Bayern Munich Hungary fan club, Zsolt Ladanyi, took his father to the game. He believes that with good hygiene and compliance from fans, the match should be safe.

“It is not actually more dangerous than going to the supermarket, where people can stand a lot closer to you at the checkout line,” he said.

UEFA and Hungary to weigh in post-match

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin called Thursday’s match a “pilot project” and will use its outcome on what to do about international football games after that.

“It will be us and the [Hungarian] government [to evaluate the health impact of the game], and in principle, we trust the governments around Europe,” he said. “It’s not us who decided spectators are allowed in the stadiums, but at the end, it’s the decision of the government to allow us to do it.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been on the receiving end of criticisms from experts and opposition politicians for subjecting the country to such dangers. Orban is an avid football fan himself and has pledged billions of euros to a massive stadium building programme. The newly completed Puskas Stadium has not had any major international games played in it yet.

It is unfair to drag UEFA into any political discussion regarding the allowance of spectators, commented Ceferin. He also drew comparisons to 27 other European countries that are now allowing fans to fill a small percentage of stadium capacities at national contests in some form.

Ceferin also pointed out that filled stadiums are not a revenue-generating means for UEFA. “Don’t think we are doing this because of money, because we don’t get any revenues. We get more costs with that. But fans and players are the essential part of football,” he said.

Other international games optimistic

The recent resumption of sports events show that they can be organised safely without vaccines, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach commented at a news conference on Thursday.

Bach, in a meeting between the IOC’s Coordination Commission and Tokyo Olympic organisers, said that focus should be on making preparations to ensure the already delayed Games can forge ahead next year.

“We should not give in to people who are interested in putting pressure on us and ready to make an announcement [to cancel the Games] now,” he said.




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