The idea of allowing the return of fans into the local stadia is edging closer towards coming a reality according to Malta Football Association president Bjorn Vassallo, following the latest MFA General Council meeting.
The MFA president told council members how the governing body is devising a structured plan to start increasing the number of persons physically attending local games across the Maltese islands.
“At the moment we are allowing 200 persons during non-televised games and an additional 20 at the televised matches,” Vassallo told a news conference.
“This number includes the players and technical staff, club officials, match officials, stadium personnel, police officers and media.
“Our next step is to add more persons as from Matchday 4 that is scheduled for October – this slot would allow members of the technical staff from all 16 teams to enter the local stadia and fulfil their scouting and analysis tasks in person.”
The projection of allowing fans return is projected for November when the MFA will propose a plan to the local health authorities to allow a number of supporters in the stands.
“Our final step is to have fans attending local games in person and we will be having discussions with the local health authorities to present our proposals,” the MFA chief explained.
“Obviously, we are planning to allow a small percentage of the stadium capacity and the selection of fans will be chosen according to their loyalty towards the club, for example club membership or season ticket holders.”
President Vassallo insisted that it is important for the MFA to have sustainable competitions and that means limiting the number of postponed games and having a well-structured COVID-19 protocol in place.
“We had positive talks with the local health authorities where we highlighted our measures, protocol and matchday operations,” Vassallo said.
“This means that the MFA is now in charge of running the medical protocol. Should there be a positive case, the MFA doctors will be in charge so that the blanket approach applied by the local authorities can be applied in football competitions, thus avoiding regular postponement of games.
To ensure a continuous collaboration between the MFA and clubs, teams competing in youth and grassroots competitions will have to provide the local governing body with a squad list of at least 16 players, including two goalkeepers so that the respective encounters can go ahead.
Clubs not following these regulations could be sanctioned by the loss of a game or points deduction.
A new initiative launched for the 2020-21 season is the live streaming of BOV Premier League matches.
“Further testing is being carried out on the cameras and we admit that the product during the first two games was not what we expected,” Vassallo said.
“Despite the fact that three matches were broadcast live, there were 25,000 people who watched the games on the livestream – a clear sign that local fans are eager to watch their domestic clubs in action.”
President Vassallo revealed that the two-hour gap between every top-flight games in every stadium will remain in compliance with the medical protocol.
“As for the games in October, they will be scheduled at 3pm and 7.15pm while as from November, matches will kick-off at 2pm and 6.15pm.”
Dual citizenship regulations
The Malta FA president confirmed the starting dates of the remaining competitions, with the Challenge League kicking off this weekend while the women’s league will get underway on October 6.
The first matches from the National Amateur League will be played on October 16.
The MFA president Vassallo revealed that following the amendments made by FIFA regarding the rules around players’ international eligibility at its congress, the Malta FA has announced that it has identified three players who could be eligible to play for the national team in the near future.
According to the new rules, players can now represent a second national team, provided they are eligible to represent that country, and have played no more than three matches for the first national team at senior level, with all the appearances coming before the player turns 21.
Such changes would mean that players such as Australia-based player Mitchell Mallia, who in the past trained with the senior national team but was not eligible as he didn’t possess a Maltese passport, could now apply for Maltese citizenship.
“At this point, if the MFA Technical Centre agrees, the MFA will start discussions on the change of their eligibility since they qualify through their Maltese descent,” Vassallo said.