Poland allows football to begin with fans


Poland Stadion Slaski will resume play Image: Stadion Slaski

Come June 19 and football clubs in Poland will be able to welcome more than 10,000 people in their stadiums. The news took the Polish Football Association (PZPN) by surprise who were only asking that 999 people be allowed.

In a joint press conference held recently at the 58,274-capacity National Stadium in Warsaw, the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, Sports Minister Danuta Dmowska-Andrzejuk and PZPN Chairman Zbigniew Boniek announced jointly the reopening of sports stadiums from June 19. Football was given the first priority with strict safety measures in place.

Too big a crowd?

Though the details of the protocol to be followed were not revealed in the press meet, the key features are now clear. Football games have been given the green light with up to 25 percent capacity. There is no cap on crowd size, as long as fans maintain social distancing. Fans are to be seated no fewer than three seats apart.

This means that the biggest stadiums in Poland – Stadion Miejski Poznań, Stadion Energa Gdansk and Stadion Miejski Wrocław – boast capacities of approximately 40,000. Twenty five percent capacity means they will be allowed to sit 10,000 people. Stadion Miejski Wrocław which can accommodate 45,000 people can even allow more than 10,000 spectators.

The crowd size did not go down well with the Polish Football Association. The Secretary General of PZPN, Maciej Sawicki, has revealed that PZPN was aiming to allow much less supporters – no more than 999 people.

Sanitation rules

The initial stages of reopening will see special sanitation rules in place before and during games. Tickets will only be sold online, disinfection will be mandatory and special identity checks will be introduced to ensure there is no direct contact. Access routes to stadia are expected to be drawn out to avoid congestion.

When games of Ekstraklasa’s final round begin on June 21, organized groups of away fans will not be accepted at stadia, though it seems supporters will be able to purchase tickets within the home stands.

The Ekstraklasa is the top Polish professional league for men’s association football teams.

More rules will follow soon. A lot of questions still remain to be answered, particularly pertaining to foot traffic within the stadium, when maintaining social distancing is not a feasible proposition at all.

Grim scene

Viral disease expert Dr Paweł Grzesiowski has not welcomed the decision to allow crowds inside the stadiums and says “the decision is premature as Poland is still at an early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, every day recording hundreds of new active cases despite very low number of tests being carried out (in comparison to neighboring countries).”

Professor Krzysztof Simon, chief viral disease consultant for Lower Silesia (a province in southwest Poland), has been warning repeatedly not to allow people at mass events until the end of 2020. He too terms the aforementioned decision as “premature if not irresponsible”.

Official data reveals that Poland has over 23,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with just over half of them active. Over 1,000 deaths have been confirmed so far.

Rumors are rife that the coronavirus cases have been kept low purposefully, with countless accounts of people being refused testing (despite symptoms) or pressure on doctors to not put COVID-19 as cause of death.

The testing capacity of Poland is very low when compared to neighboring countries, with 25,000 daily tests having been reached only in mid-May, after two months since lockdown. Recently the national health authority has lowered subsidies for private testing, which in effect reduces national testing capacity.

Whenever mass testing is conducted, it immediately shows that huge number of people has been infected with coronavirus, as was the case with the miners in Upper Silesia or kindergarten teachers in Łódź. Hotspots are still surfacing across the country on a daily basis, be it around churches or workplaces.

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