La Liga’s clubs have been told that football matches in Spain will be played behind closed doors until 2021, multiple sources have confirmed to ESPN.
The decision — which is yet to be formally announced — has been made by the Spanish government, taking into account the expected evolution of the coronavirus pandemic.
The expectation is that stadiums will gradually re-open under strict safety measures from January 2021 to try to avoid a new outbreak of COVID-19, and may not operate at full capacity until a vaccine is available.
The decision will be kept under review and would be re-evaluated in the event of the virus coming under control more quickly than expected, or the development of successful treatments.
A date is yet to be made public for a return to football behind closed doors, with La Liga having been suspended indefinitely since last month.
Spain has been one of Europe’s hardest hit countries, with more than 210,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and over 22,000 deaths.
Players have not yet returned to training, and the most likely scenario currently being contemplated is playing the remainder of the 2019-20 domestic season behind closed doors in June and July.
La Liga has now passed the news on to its first and second division clubs, sources told ESPN, which have been warned to adjust their budgets for next season as a result.
Clubs are facing a significant reduction in box office receipts for 2020-21, as well as associated losses such as merchandising sales and income from stadium tours.
The club was already contemplating a scenario that involved behind-closed-doors games at Camp Nou until February 2021.
La Liga has recommended that clubs attempt to cut transfer spending and focus more on academy players and loan signings as they look to build squads for next season.
ESPN has been told that the league and its broadcast partners are considering a number of measures, including greater use of pitchside audio and adjusted camera angles, to compensate for the lack of fan atmosphere in matchday broadcasts.
“I’m optimistic about the return of football, without spectators,” the president of Spain’s National Sports Council, Irene Lozano, told La Sexta TV on Thursday. “It will be very difficult to bring fans back this year. Obviously it will be hard to have large gatherings of people until a vaccine is available. We’ll keep looking at it as the pandemic develops.”