Professor Charmaine Gauci, the Superintendent for Health, has all but ended any hopes for Maltese football fans to return to stadium in the coming weeks as she declared that having supporters at the stadium poses a huge risk of further spreading the virus.
In the last few weeks, the South End Core, the official supporters club of the national football team, published a set of proposals which were presented to both the Malta Football Association and the Health Authorities, in a bid for a safe return of football fans to the stadia.
The Malta FA is also understood to be in continuous consultation with the authorities to bring back fans into football grounds.
However, speaking on national television, Profs. Gauci, who was responding to a question by Dillon Mercieca, from the South End Core, said that having fans in a stadium is too big of a risk.
“We have to understand that we are at a time of a pandemic where one has to introduce ways of reducing the opportunities of having group of people gathering together,” Profs. Gauci said.
“It is also important that you risk the chances of having people who usually do not frequent each other.
“In a restaurant you have a family or a group of friends who spend time together so there is less of a risk while the tables have a seating limit and there is a specific distance between one table and another.
“In a football stadium, we have worked with the Malta Football Association to protect the sport during the pandemic. So far, we have followed the UEFA protocol to have matches and training sessions held in a safe way.
“But when you have spectators in the stadium it’s too much of a risk as you are gathering people who do not usually spend time together on a daily basis and inevitably you are increasing the chances of further spreading the virus.”
A number of countries in eastern Europe have already opened the stadiums to a capped capacity while UEFA, the European governing body, staged this year’s Super Cup in Budapest in front of a reduced number of spectators – up to 30 % of the capacity of the stadium – to test the impact of spectators on the UEFA Return to Play Protocol.
However, Profs. Gauci ignored the suggestion that countries like France, who are in a worse situation than Malta, have opened to fans, and said that the majority of the countries are staging football matches behind closed doors as it was the safest route to take.
“Many countries are staging matches without spectators and have still moved on with their seasons,” Profs Gauci said.
“Even other sport have held events behind closed doors. This year is different to other years and we always look at having a number event that can be still organised but always in a safe manner and without putting risks to people involved.”