Hungarian fans will be back in the stands of the country’s football stadiums from Friday, a first in Europe where other leagues have resumed behind closed doors. The size of the crowds, however, will be reduced, the national federation (MLSZ) said in a statement on Thursday.
Spectators will be spread out so that no more than one seat in four will be occupied and every second row will be entirely empty. “The clubs organising the matches must ensure that social distance is maintained in the stands to guarantee the conditions for epidemiological control,” the MLSZ said.
Fans of the bottom two clubs, Kapsovar and ZTE, will be the first to try the scheme when their clubs meet Friday evening in the Kapsovar stadium, which usually holds up to 7,000.
Five league matches are scheduled over Saturday and Sunday, including an encounter between league leaders Ferencvaros and Puskas FC, the club from Felcsut, the hometown of football-mad Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
That match will be held at the Pancho Arena, a recently-built 3,500-seat stadium, next to Orban’s second home in the village of 1,750, some 40 kilometres from Budapest.
Hungary is not known for its packed stands, apart from in Budapest where Ferencvaros matches attract thousands of fans. The average league crowd is 3,000.
This low attendance compared to the capacity of the ultra-modern stadiums built since Orban came to power prompted some ironic comments on social media on Thursday. “We are already maintaining social distancing in the stadiums very well,” one web user joked.
The European countries that have relaunched their leagues in May, or are about to do so, are playing behind closed doors.
Hungary, which has a population of 9.8 million, had by Thursday recorded more than 3,816 cases and 509 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic.
Restrictions have gradually been eased across the country and Budapest will be able to fully reopen its bars and restaurants on Friday.