La Liga can take another step towards normality next season after the Spanish government confirmed on Thursday it has lifted its ban on fans attending stadiums.
The exact capacity allowed in each stadium will be determined by regional authorities, with some restrictions still possible, especially in the north of Spain.
But the government giving permission for supporters to return is an important first step as La Liga clubs begin to recover financially from the Covid-19 pandemic.
La Liga president Javier Tebas said earlier this week he expects stadiums to be at least 70 per cent full at the start of the season in August.
“We can return let’s say to normality in terms of fans being allowed into stadiums,” Spanish health minister, Carolina Darias, said on Thursday, with the announcement applying both to La Liga and Spain’s ACB basketball league.
“It will have to be, as it was before, the regional authorities who determine the capacity,” Darias added.
Fans were allowed to return for the last two rounds of La Liga last season but in only five regions and with a limit of 30 per cent capacity and 5,000 people.
Spain is hosting four Euro 2020 matches in Seville at La Cartuja stadium, where a capacity of 30 per cent has been allowed.
Bilbao was Spain’s original host city but local authorities were unable to commit to supporters attending Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames.
The UK government announced on Tuesday the tournament’s semi-final and final will be able to be played in front of more than 60,000 fans at Wembley, which means the stadium will be at 75 per cent capacity.
The Confederation of African Football has intensified efforts for a $1billion lifeline for the wholesale revamp of football infrastructure on the African continent.
President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Member of the CAF Emergency Committee, Amaju Pinnick, led the drive at a crucial meeting in Abidjan, the Ivorian capital.
“It was a very important meeting, as we started the push for our objective of raising $1billion to change the face of football infrastructure in Africa,” the NFF boss said.
He added, “You will recall that the CAF President made a statement regarding the need to raise this money for the sake of football infrastructure on our continent some weeks back. This new CAF regime is a doing team, not just a talking one. So, we have set out to work.”
Pinnick, who is also a member of FIFA Council, was accompanied by the president of the world’s football governing body, Gianni Infantino, and CAF President, Dr Patrice Motsepe, to pay a courtesy visit to the President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina.
Also at the meeting were CAF General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, and Ivorian football legend Didier Drogba.
“The President of FIFA was there as solidarity for the steps we are taking. We had a very useful and positive meeting with the President of the African Development Bank; further talks are lined up.
“We are also going to meet with other institutions and individuals who have the means and the willingness to help African football to realise its potentials and break into the big time,” Pinnick stated.
The meeting in the Ivorian capital came only a few days after the CAF inspection team released a report stating categorically that 22 of the 54 countries in Africa have no football pitch that meets the standard to host international matches.
Brazil’s star footballer Neymar is at the center of a new controversy storm after several Brazilian media reported that he’s organizing a huge New Year’s Eve party despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Acelmo Goes, a columnist for the O Globo newspaper, claimed that the Paris Saint-Germain forward is hosting 500 people for a week-long party at his luxury beachside mansion near Rio de Janeiro that started on Saturday and will last until New Year’s Day.
Brazil has suffered the second-largest number of Covid-19 related deaths in the world with more than 191,000, while 7.4 million people have contracted the virus.
Neymar, who is no stranger to controversies over his parties, allegedly even installed soundproofing equipment to try to avoid bothering his neighbors.
Leo Dias, a columnist for the Metropoles website who is renowned for his scoops on celebrities, even named the artists due to perform at Neymar’s party, such as Ludmilla and Wesley Safadao.
Guests’ mobile phones are allegedly due to be confiscated on the door to prevent any evidence from finding its way onto social media.
Representatives for Neymar denied the rumors, releasing a statement saying there would be “no party” in Neymar’s villa.
A specialist events agency, Agencia Fabrica, released a statement confirming it had been contracted for a New Year’s event in the Costa Verde region where Neymar’s villa is located “that will host around 150 people … while respecting all the health rules determined by the public bodies.”
Neymar’s villa is in Mangaratiba, a small town in an area of luxury seaside resorts in Rio de Janeiro state.
The local town hall has pleaded with its 41,000 inhabitants not to hold end-of-year parties and has erected barriers to prevent people from congregating.
“We don’t have any information about this party,” the town hall said in a statement sent to AFP.
Neymar, who hasn’t played since December 13 when he injured his ankle against Lyon, hasn’t commented on the party and in recent days has posted pictures of his family on social media without commentaries.
His Mangaratiba mansion is located on a 10,000m2 plot of land that includes a heliport, sports pitches, spa, sauna, massage parlor, gymnasium and dining areas.
It’s where he previously spent his time recovering from injuries and also where he headed from March to June when the coronavirus was raging in France leading to the suspension of professional football.
The Premier League has become the world’s richest league based on its staggering global appeal, with millions tuning in to watch the best talent from around the globe week by week.
But a change of rules as a result of Brexit means English clubs will not have the same freedom to hoover up the best of European football’s young players.
From January 1, a points-based system will be in place, meaning players from the European Union will now need to gain a Governing Body Endorsement (GBE), subjecting them to the same criteria as other overseas players.
Points will be awarded on the basis of the number of international appearances made, as well as club appearances in domestic and continental competitions and the standard of the club and league the player is coming from.
Getting a GBE will not be a problem for the vast majority of the Premier League’s big-money arrivals but the changes will have a bigger effect on the recruitment of youth players and further down the football pyramid.
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters sounded confident earlier this month when the English top-flight, the Football Association and the English Football League announced post-Brexit arrangements.
“Continuing to be able to recruit the best players will see the Premier League remain competitive and compelling and the solution will complement our player development philosophy of the best foreign talent alongside the best homegrown players,” he said.
The same rules will also apply to managers and coaches based on the level they have previously worked at. For example, under the new criteria, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would not have been granted a GBE, having spent most of his coaching career in Norway.
However, players and coaches who do not automatically qualify for a work permit can appeal to a panel of experts for an exemption.
As with much surrounding Brexit, however, the rules will be constantly reviewed.
– No new Fabregas or Pogba –
Britain’s withdrawal from the EU means Premier League clubs will no longer benefit from an exception to world governing body FIFA’s rules on the signing of minors.
FIFA bans all overseas transfers for under-18s but makes an exception for movement within the European Economic Area. That allowed Cesc Fabregas and Paul Pogba to move to England as 16-year-olds in the past but this will now no longer be possible.
– Connected clubs –
One way of getting around the new rules is for British-based clubs to have a link to a feeder or associate club in Europe.
Manchester City’s network of clubs under the City Football Group (CFG) umbrella is the most high-profile example. CFG has stakes in lower-league sides in Spain, France and Belgium.
Leicester’s owners King Power own Belgian club Leuven while Sheffield United’s Saudi chief, Prince Abdullah, has an ownership stake in Belgian side Beerschot and is closing in on French Ligue 2 side Chateauroux.
These clubs could be used to ‘park’ young EU players until they turn 18 and also help build up the requisite number of appearances to obtain a GBE.
– Boost for British players –
The Football Association’s key objective in coming to an agreement with the Premier League and English Football League was to create more opportunities for young British players.
The number of overseas under-21 players Premier League clubs can sign will be restricted to three in the upcoming January transfer window and thereafter be capped at six per season.
Speaking about the overall agreement, the FA’s CEO Mark Bullingham said: “Despite having different starting perspectives on how Brexit should impact football, this is another example of how the football authorities can work effectively together for the greater good of the game.”
He added: “We will also discuss improvements to the player pathway for the mutual benefit of football clubs and homegrown talent in this country.”
The limits on signing young players from overseas will have a particular impact on EFL and Scottish league clubs, where a far higher degree of imports from Europe will not meet the criteria for a GBE.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon said he thought the rules would make a clear difference.
“We’re probably looking at the British market more than anything else (for new players),” he said. “I think it’s going to be difficult after the end of the year to get players in from the continent.”
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez on Sunday said the coronavirus pandemic had increased the need for the creation of a new elite league.
“Football needs new formulas to make it more competitive, more exciting, and stronger,” Perez told club members at the annual meeting held online on Sunday.
Perez also said that the pandemic had cost Real Madrid 106 million euros ($130 million) in lost income, but cost-cutting meant the club had still managed to make a 313,000-euro profit.
The biggest clubs have long lobbied for European competitions to be structured in a way that guarantees them a greater share of the revenue.
“This model needs a new impulse,” he said. “The impact of Covid-19 strongly demands new changes. Football has to face this new time.”
“Reforming football cannot wait and we have to get down to it as soon as possible. The biggest clubs in Europe have millions of fans spread across the world. We have the responsibility to fight for this change,” he added.
The latest plan for a Super League surfaced through a series of leaked emails and documents in November 2018 which suggested that many of Europe’s biggest clubs were working on plans for a 16-team Super League to kick off as early as 2021.
When Josep Maria Bartomeu stood down as president of Real’s great rivals Barcelona in October he called for “a future European Super League” which “would guarantee the financial stability of the club”.
UEFA, the governing body of European football, immediately reiterated its “strong opposition” to the idea.
In early December, British daily The Times reported that UEFA was working on a Champions League reform plan that would see all sides in the competition compete in one league and play 10 different opponents, selected by a draw.
The format dubbed the “Swiss system” is designed to avoid meaningless matches in the group stage.
Real’s members approved a budget for this season of 617 million euros, down from the 822.1 million euros last season.
Perez said the club planned to ask executives, players and coaches to continue the pay cut they agreed last season.
“The management we’ve been carrying out all these years has allowed us to maintain a very solvent financial position which, in light of this immense crisis we are living through as a result of the pandemic, has allowed us to navigate serenely through what is a difficult situation,” Perez said.
“The reality is that all big football clubs are suffering this significant financial blow and we’re not immune to it either.”
The Premier League said Thursday that it had agreed to permit permanent concussion substitutes from next month after football’s lawmakers authorised extensive trials using them.
However, in a meeting on Thursday club bosses in England’s top flight voted for a third time against increasing the number of allowed substitutes from three to five despite the International Football Association Board (IFAB) also extending that rule on Wednesday.
IFAB said the trials using concussion substitutes could begin in January, and the Premier League bosses decided they would be looking at a maximum of two per side per match.
“With player welfare the Premier League’s priority, clubs agreed in principle to introduce additional permanent concussion substitutions following approval of the trial by the International Football Association Board yesterday,” the Premier League said.
“The Premier League will look to implement protocols which will allow a maximum of two concussion substitutes to be used per team, with the opposition side able to use the equivalent number.
“The additional concussion substitutions may be made regardless of the number of substitutions a team has made already.”
Concussion has become an increasingly hot issue in the sport — rugby union has used head injury replacements for a while — with increasing concern over the amount of former footballers who develop dementia later in life.
Although Premier League clubs once again repudiated moves to allow five substitutes they did agree to allow nine players on the bench as opposed to the present seven.
The measure will come into effect from this weekend’s round of games beginning on Saturday.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp had been especially vociferous in his wanting five substitutes due to a lengthening injury list and concerns over the hectic fixture schedule.
Others such as Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder argued against it believing that it would only favour those teams with big squads.
The football world united to pay tribute to one of the game’s greatest-ever players after Argentine legend Diego Maradona died at the age of 60 on Wednesday.
Renowned for inspiring Argentina to win the World Cup in 1986, he was most loved at club level for his spells with Boca Juniors in his homeland and Napoli in Italy, where he won the club’s only two Serie A titles.
“You are eternal in every heart in world football,” the Twitter account of the Argentina national team posted alongside a picture of Maradona holding the World Cup.
Maradona also played for Barcelona and Sevilla in Europe and Argentinos Juniors and Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina before embarking on a far less successful managerial career.
“Thank you for everything Diego. FC Barcelona expresses its deepest condolences regarding the death of Diego Armando Maradona, a player for our club (1982-84) and an icon of world football,” Barcelona said in a statement.
Maradona is remembered for his masterly composure on the ball, but he was also famous for his frequent lack of control both on the field and off.
He struggled with addiction, notably to cocaine, and with his weight, in contrast to the more clean-cut image of Brazilian legend and three-time World Cup winner Pele.
“What sad news. I lost a great friend and the world lost a legend,” Pele tweeted. “One day, I hope we play soccer together in the sky.”
The pinnacle of Maradona’s playing career came in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, where his two iconic goals defeated England 2-1.
Both goals reflected Maradona’s larger-than-life character.
For the first, he punched the ball into the net for a goal he named “Hand of God”, while for the second he showed incredible skill by dancing round the England team from inside his own half.
“By some distance the best player of my generation and arguably the greatest of all time,” said Gary Lineker, who scored England’s goal in that match.
“After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully, he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. #RipDiego.”
Diego Maradona, one of the greatest footballers of all time, died Wednesday at the age of 60, plunging his sport and his native Argentina into mourning.
Renowned along with Pele as one of the greatest players ever to play the game, the Argentine World Cup-winning captain died of a heart attack, having undergone brain surgery earlier this month, a member of his entourage told AFP.
Maradona will forever be known for his “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final in Mexico when he appeared to use his hand to push the ball into the net before later swerving through the English defenders for a memorable second goal that sealed the victory.
Pele said Maradona had been a “dear friend” and said he hoped they would “play together in the sky” one day.
Gary Lineker, who was in the England team defeated in 1986, tweeted that Maradona was “arguably the greatest of all time” but made a reference to that infamous goal by adding: “After a blessed but troubled life, hopefully, he’ll finally find some comfort in the hands of God. #RipDiego”
Lionel Messi, the Argentine considered one of the world’s greatest modern-day players, said Maradona was “eternal”.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez immediately announced three days of national mourning in the South American country.
Shortly before the announcement that shocked the world, Argentine media reported Maradona had suffered a serious health setback on Wednesday and was being treated at his home north of Buenos Aires.
“There are four ambulances at the door of the residence. They have summoned family members to come. It is serious,” the TyC Sports channel reported.
In the 51st minute, as England goalkeeper Peter Shilton reached to catch the ball, Maradona jumped alongside him and with a deftness that fooled the eye, flicked the ball with his hand through the England goalkeeper’s arms and into the net.
After the game, Maradona said he scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”
The goal he scored four minutes later when he picked up the ball in his own half and glided past six England players, including Shilton, was named “Goal of the Century” by FIFA.
He played for Argentinos Juniors and Boca in Argentina before joining Barcelona in Spain, but it was in Naples where he would enchant an entire city by leading the then unfashionable club to its only two Italian league titles in 1987 and 1990.
Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona is to remain in hospital for several more days to undergo treatment following surgery to remove a blood clot on the brain, his doctor said Thursday.
“We saw that in the postoperative phase Diego had episodes of confusion,” Leopoldo Luque told reporters.
Therapists treating Maradona had linked the behaviour to withdrawal symptoms and the necessary treatment would last “a few days,” he said.
Luque did not provide details, but Maradona has a long history of drug and alcohol addiction.
Although he has publicly said he no longer uses cocaine, friends and media reports have suggested he remains addicted to alcohol.
At a press conference outside the private clinic in Buenos Aires where surgeons spent 80 minutes removing the clot on Tuesday night, Luque took pains to present an upbeat assessment of the 60-year-old’s overall condition.
“Diego is doing well. The CT scan came out well. We were even dancing. Yes, we danced!” the doctor said.
The doctor said Maradona “agrees” with the diagnosis and would remain in the clinic.
Earlier Thursday, he said doctors were happy with the former player’s condition: “He can walk, talk to me….It’s very early this, but the recovery is excellent.”
World Cup winner Maradona had been taken to hospital in La Plata — where he is the coach of top-flight side Gimnasia y Esgrima — on Monday for a series of tests after feeling unwell.
A scan revealed the blood clot, and on Tuesday he was transferred to the clinic in a northern neighborhood of the capital.
Fans have flocked to the clinic to leave banners showing the star in his prime and messages of support for the ailing icon.
Alongside Brazil’s Pele, who turned 80 last month, Maradona is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
– ‘Depressed’ – Maradona, who turned 60 on Friday, has suffered ill health before. He has survived two heart attacks, and also contracted hepatitis and underwent gastric bypass surgery.
Prior to falling ill, Maradona had been depressed, his lawyer Matias Morla said on Wednesday.
The famously fast-living icon had only been able to spend half an hour at his own birthday celebration at his team’s training ground on Friday, when he had difficulty walking.
“He was behaving strangely. He was very depressed and spoke about dead relatives that he missed,” said Morla.
He said Maradona was “very worried” about the surgery and praised Luque, adding that “if he hadn’t detected the clot, Maradona’s fate would have been different.”
Luque insisted on Tuesday that the procedure was “a routine operation.”
FIFA on Wednesday put the cost of Covid-19 on football around the world at $11 billion in lost revenue.
The pandemic has already led to over 150 football associations to seek financial help from the $1.5 billion emergency relief fund set up by football’s governing body.
Olli Rehn, chairman of FIFA’s coronavirus steering committee, laid bare for the first time the true financial impact the virus has had on the game through fixture list chaos, empty stadiums and loss of TV rights revenue.
“It’s a huge number and it covers the football economy in its entirety, including all youth academies,” Rehn, a Finnish politician and governor of the Bank of Finland, told a press conference.
“This will impact next year as well, there is a carry over.
“That is why this Covid-19 relief fund is not time-bound – they may request loans later on if they need to,” Rehn, who is also independent deputy chairman of the FIFA Governance Committee, said.
He said that while Europe was hit hardest in terms of absolute cost, it was the associations outside Europe which “have suffered more”.
“In particular in South America, many on account of their relative means and the spring to autumn season,” he said.
Last month European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli predicted lost revenue of four billion euros over two years for its member clubs.
Each national association can request a FIFA grant of $1million ($2mn for confederations) plus $500,000 for women’s football.
Loans are available to national associations up to a maximum value of $5mn ($4mn for confederations).
Rehn was at pains to stress that unlike in the past it was imperative the money made available by FIFA “is being used for the right purposes”.
“Corruption has no room in football,” he stated.
“Good governance is at the heart of this Covid-19 relief fund,” he said.
“We have made this clear to member associations. I know some member associations have complained about heavy compliance procedures – I’m quite used to that. We do require full compliance and we have been working with globally-known auditing companies.
He gave some examples of how the relief fund is already being put into use, like in Thailand, where it has helped restart the national league competition, including coronavirus testing, but also to implement video assistant referee (VAR) technology.
Mexico spent its entire $1.5mn grant on its national women’s league, and in Brazil the funds are supporting the testing programme in the women’s competition.
And in Uruguay, the money has helped the federation re-hire staff it had been forced to lay off, who were crucial to its effective operation.
England men’s and women’s senior players have been paid the same match fee for representing their country since January 2020, the Football Association confirmed on Thursday.
Brazil on Wednesday joined Australia, Norway and New Zealand on the list of football associations who had publicly committed to paying their men and women players the same amount for earning a senior cap.
“The FA pays its women’s players exactly the same as their male counterparts for representing England, both in terms of match fees and match bonuses,” the FA said in a statement.
“This parity has been in place since January 2020.”
In March 2019, the US women’s team, the current world champions, sued their federation alleging discrimination over pay and conditions.
A judge dismissed their case in May this year but the team have appealed that ruling.