Spain considering allowing soccer fans to return to matches

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Barcelona - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - March 1, 2020 Real Madrid fans before the match REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's health ministry is weighing up whether to let fans back into soccer stadiums when the season restarts later in June after a three-month pause due to the new coronavirus pandemic, Health Emergency Coordinator Fernando Simon said on Tuesday.

Simon explained that regions which had moved into phase three of the de-escalation process could be authorised to hold matches with spectators but added that they might be prevented from doing so in the interest of sporting fairness.

The top-flight is starting up again on June 11 with the Segunda Division resuming a day later, and organising body La Liga has said all matches should be played without supporters in order to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

But second-tier Las Palmas have started a discussion about fans returning after their president Miguel Angel Ramirez said he hoped fans could attend their first match back against Girona.

Simon said the issue was discussed on Tuesday in an online meeting between Health Minister Salvador Illa, Sports Minister Irene Lozano and four La Liga players including Barcelona's Gerard Pique and Atletico Madrid's Koke.

He added that the players and the department for sport do not want supporters at matches until every club is allowed to have them back.

"The department for sport have agreed this with the players. That decision did not come from the health department as it's not something we considered when evaluating the risks," Simon said.

"We haven't given any firm answer as we are obviously not in a position to do so yet but it is true that the health minister has committed to evaluating the risks. And if a region is in phase three (fans attending matches) will be evaluated."

Spain, one of the countries in Europe worst-affected by the virus, imposed a strict lockdown in March but has been easing restrictions according to progress made in each region.

The majority of provinces are expected to move into phase three from June 8, with the exception of the region of Madrid, the province of Barcelona and some provinces in Castille Leon.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has said the organisation is planning for supporters to return to stadiums in stages next season, which is due to begin on Sept. 12, as long as they get the green light from health authorities.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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