La Liga to be played behind closed doors for at least two weeks

BARCELONA: La Liga matches will be played without fans for at least the next two rounds of fixtures to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Spanish league said on Tuesday.

The decision was taken in conjunction with the decision of the Spanish government's sports council (CSD) that professional and non-professional sports events and competitions should take place behind closed doors.

However, it was criticised by associations representing both players and supporters who said it would be better to call games off altogether.

La Liga said in a statement that first and second tier matches "will be played behind closed doors, starting today (March 10) and for at least the next two weeks."

It added that La Liga would follow recommendations of the Ministry of Health and CSD "prioritising the health of fans, players, club employees, journalists etc. due to the COVID-19 health crisis."

"For weeks, La Liga has been working on alternative plans in coordination with UEFA in case health authorities decide to suspend any match, creating a plan to play these matches," it added.

The first match affected is the clash between Eibar and Real Sociedad later on Tuesday at Ipurua Municipal Stadium, a game already postponed from Feb. 16 because of poor air quality.

If the measure is not extended, the next round of matches with supporters will take place on the weekend of April 4-5.

The Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE) sent letters to the Spanish Football Federation, La Liga and CSD asking for the matches to be postponed instead of played behind closed doors.

"We have asked for the suspension of all games in all divisions for both genders," said the AFE in a statement.

"Given the situation, we have made this request thinking exclusively about the health of the players, who collectively we represent."

Celta Vigo midfielder Denis Suarez wrote on Twitter: "Reflection: We play for the fans. Does it make sense to play without them?"

The umbrella organisation FASPE, which represents supporters groups and club members, agreed with the players.

"We believe that supporters are an intrinsic part of football which doesn't make sense at all without them," it said in a statement.

"The solution should not and must not involve playing matches in closed stadiums, but the postponement of the competitions until the health situation is safe and suitable for staging games in front of the public."

The Spanish Football Federation said they would consider postponing the Copa del Rey final between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad on April 18 if matches still need to take place behind closed doors by that point.