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UEFA, Hungary to evaluate together Super Cup's health impact amid COVID-19

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary and UEFA will review the health impact of the Super Cup, Europe’s first major game open to fans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to see if international matches can be held safely, the president of European soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

UEFA has said the Super Cup, played this year by Champions League winners Bayern Munich of Germany and Europa League champions Sevilla of Spain, would be safe to attend, but criticism has mounted to keep fans out.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin called the process a “pilot project” and reiterated that the organisation will decide what to do about international football games once it knows the outcome of Thursday’s match.

“In principle it will be us and the (Hungarian) government of course (to evaluate the health impact of the game) and in principle we trust the governments around Europe,” Ceferin told a news conference after a meeting of football leaders in Budapest.

“I think you know we are a very transparent organisation and... it’s not us who decided spectators are allowed in the stadiums but at the end it’s the decision of the government to allow us to do it.”

Spokesmen for the Hungarian government and Prime Minister Viktor Orban declined to comment on the match’s health risks even as experts, opposition politicians and ordinary voters expressed frustration at being subjected to such an experiment.

Orban, an avid football fan who has pledged billions of euros to a massive stadium building programme, has yet to see a big international competitive game in the newly completed Puskas Stadium.

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“We will have 16,000 spectators,” Ceferin said. “It’s not even 30% (of the stadium’s nominal capacity of 67,000). The measures are strict. There is not a question of health risks for the fans.

“We will of course not allow... anybody to drag us into any political discussion about that,” he added. “The easiest thing for us would be not to do anything... (But) we want - with health our number one priority - to bring hope.”

He said 27 European countries allow fans into national contests in some form, whether by drawing a maximum number of fans or a percentage of stadium capacity.

“I can’t explain how we can have 50% capacity for spectators on one day then the next day for a UEFA match have no spectators,” he said.

“Don’t think we are doing this because of money, because we don’t get any revenues. We get more costs with that. But fans and players are the essential part of football.”

Reporting by Marton Dunai