Europe’s premier club competitions were played out behind closed doors in 2019-20, but can stadiums reopen for games this season?
When Liverpool were beaten by Atletico Madrid at Anfield in March 2020, few realised it would be the last Champions League match played for almost five months.
The coronavirus pandemic severely disrupted the European football calendar, and the decision to allow more than 50,000 fans into Anfield was criticised by many as Covid-19 spread in England.
The closing stages of the 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League were played without fans, in bio-secure environments in Portugal and Germany.
Now, the 2020-21 season has begun and the groups have been drawn. In the Champions League, Lionel Messi will face Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United will face Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool will play Ajax for the first time in more than 50 years. The Europa League will see Arsenal face Irish minnows Dundalk, AC Milan face Celtic and Napoli play Real Sociedad.
But will fans be allowed to attend matches in the Champions League and Europa League this season? Goal examines the situation.
Can fans attend Champions League and Europa League matches?
At the start of October, UEFA announced that fans can attend Champions League and Europa League matches, as well as UEFA internationals, where local laws permit.
For example, supporters can attend games in France or Germany, where fans have returned to stadiums in small numbers, but not in England, where all games are still being played behind closed doors.
8️⃣5️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ fans in the stands for RB Leipzig’s game today 😷 pic.twitter.com/RbSPR0bEmN
— Goal (@goal) September 20, 2020
Stadiums can be filled to a maximum of 30 per cent of capacity, except in cases where the local limit is lower. Limits on attendance are subject to the decision of local authorities.
Away supporters are not permitted to return to games at this point.
A UEFA statement added: “Social distancing will be mandatory for spectators and additional precautionary measures, such as the wearing of masks, must be implemented in accordance with local regulations.”
While the decision was made after the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League, fans did return to stadiums in some matches during the October international break.
The decision was reached after the UEFA Super Cup, which was used as a trial event for the safe return of crowds.
Around 15,000 fans were present in the 67,000-capacity Puskas Arena in Budapest as Bayern Munich beat Sevilla 2-1.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin described the ruling as “a sensible first step which puts fans’ health first and respects the laws in each country.”
He added: “While we all face a common enemy in Covid-19, different countries have different approaches and different challenges at any given moment.
“This decision allows much more local flexibility to deal with admitting fans than was previously the case, always respecting the assessment of local authorities.”