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Stadium Designs May Change to Adjust to Social Distancing; FC Barcelona Chief Says Setien to Stay and More (Football Round-up)

Short Passes (Football News Round-up): Fewer fans and increased costs may force clubs to rethink stadium functions, study suggests | FC Barcelona chief says manager Setien to stay, does not regrets sacking Valverde | Rugby League team Wigan Warriors aim to buy Wigan Athletic | Mohun Bagan clear dues of players and team officials ahead of ATK merger | Austrian football league to investigate testing procedures at clubs after Kapfenberger admit oversight.
San Siro in Italy, a traditional and one of the most hallowed football stadiums in the world

(Representational Image: San Siro) Hosting matches will likely escalate with the introduction of measures such as ‘no touch’ solutions including automatic doors, lights activation infrared detection and mobile payment for tickets and drinks.

Football clubs may be forced to adopt new designs for stadiums that will include reduction in stadium capacity, improved ventilation systems and mobile payment for tickets and beverages due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

A study conducted by the architecture firm Fenwick Iribarren suggested that the repercussions of the pandemic may impact stadium design in the future, because clubs will need to ensure social distancing in the stands. 

The study concluded that implementation of social distancing would only be possible if clubs reduce seat capacities or develop bigger venues. The former, however, would be more feasible because of a predicted drop in matchday revenue. An earlier study conducted by KPMG, had found that Europe's top clubs suffered an estimated 15-30% loss in matchday revenue in the 2019-20 campaign due to several home games being played behind closed doors. More of the same in the future will increase losses.

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Hosting matches will likely escalate with the introduction of measures such as ‘no touch’ solutions including automatic doors, lights activation infrared detection and mobile payment for tickets and drinks. 

Sharing his assessment, Mark Fenwick, head of the firm, emphasised the need for clubs to scale down stadium capacity to secure requisite safety levels but also questioned how it could be made possible creatively..

“I remember the great disasters in England changed stadiums with people standing up, to people sitting down and seating capacity was reduced by 30%,” Fenwick said, referring to the Hillsborough and Heysel stadium disasters in the 1980s. 

“It is necessary to see how the reduction of capacity is made, how the spaces where people mix are treated. But I think it is a sustainable and saleable challenge.”

Setien to Stay

Barcelona President Joseph Maria Bartomeu has said that manager Quique Setien will continue to be responsible for the team next season despite rumours that he had lost control of big names in the dressing room as Barcelona’s title challenge fell apart upon the restart. Bartomeu added he had no regrets dropping Ernesto Valverde in January.

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Valverde led Barcelona to consecutive league titles while in charge. Barcelona were top of the table on goal difference when he was replaced by Setien in January.

Setien’s attempts to reform Barca’s play has brought mixed results. Draws with Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid have unravelled the club’s title bid after the restart. Their victory against Villareal, as exhilarating as it was may end up meaning nothing if Real Madrid win the title. The game won Bartomeu’s approval though.

Real are at the top of the table, leading by four points with four games remaining.

“Setien will obviously continue. At this moment I’m pretty happy with how the team has evolved and in the last couple of games we have seen the improvements Setien has made,” Bartomeu told radio station Rac1 on Tuesday. 

“I don’t regret the decision to sack Valverde, we needed to give the team a boost and Setien has brought new ideas and new sensations with him.”

Warriors Keen to Buy Wigan Athletic

The Rugby league club Wigan Warriors have displayed an interest in buying Wigan Athletic, who are in administration at present after owner Au Yeung sent the club on a downward spiral a month after taking charge. Having gone into administration the club have also been docked 12 points, which would see them face the drop to League One. Wigan are currently 16th in the Championship, six points above the relegation zone. The administrators confirmed that they will appeal the point penalty.

The owner of the Rugby League club Ian Lenagan, chief executive Gary Speakman and ex-Oxford chairman Darryl Eales, wish to bring both clubs together and have already reached out to the club administrators.

"We strongly believe that Wigan Athletic is better being locally owned," the Warriors statement said.

Both clubs have been separately owned ever since Ian Lenagan bought the Rugby League in 2007 from then Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan. 

"As sustainability and ownership of the stadium is equally important to both clubs, we are currently working with our longstanding advisers KPMG and talking to external parties," the statement added. "Our intention is to identify other investors quickly and start due diligence on the football club with the intention of making a bid in due course."

In a statement on Tuesday Yeung said the coronavirus, the ban of fans from stadiums and its subsequent economic impact had “fundamentally undermined our ability to fund” the club, adding that he put it into administration “to ensure its survival”.

Yeung did not address rumours that his putting the club into administration was linked to a bet that Wigan would be relegated. The possibility of this was discussed in a video last week by Rick Parry, the EFL chairman.

Mohun Bagan Clear Salary Dues

I-League champions Mohun Bagan declared that they had cleared the salaries of players coaches and support staff three days prior to its official merger with ATK. 

The first board meeting conducted by ATK-Mohun Bagan will be accompanied by seven directors on Friday signifying the inception of the joint venture. Decisions around the club’s name, logo and jersey may also be settled in the meeting.

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"We are pleased to inform that Mohun Bagan Football Club (India) Pvt. Ltd has already cleared the due salaries of Indian coaches, players and support staff on Tuesday," the club said in a statement.

Bagan players had contacted the club in May asking them to clear their dues. However, the club management pinned the delay on the national lockdown enforced due to the Covid-19 before guaranteeing the payment of dues by July 20. 

“Mohun Bagan FC is happy to have fulfilled the commitment and wish the players, coaches and support staff a successful future,” their statement added.

Probe on Testing Procedures at Austrian Clubs

The Austrian football league began an investigation into Covid-19  testing procedures of all 16 second-division teams following three players from the same club found infected with coronavirus over the weekend.

The league told the Austria Press Agency on Tuesday that each club will need to produce receipts and test results that prove all players have been tested every week since resumption of games on June 5. 

The investigation follows last-place Kapfenberg SV’s violation of the coronavirus protocols. The club owned up to their failure to systematically test players prompting the league to initiate proceedings against them. 

Kapfenberg first denied any misconduct but the club president Erwin Fuchs later admitted that the team doctor may have overlooked a few players during testing last week.

In an interview with Austrian TV station ORF, Fuchs described it as ‘a human mistake’ 

On Friday, one player of the Kapfenberg-led team tested positive for Covid-19 following which their league game against Wacker Innsbruck was deferred till Tuesday. The team was forced into quarantine in a sports academy near the stadium. All players went through another round of testing with two more players testing positive the next day. 

The game against Wacker has been rescheduled to next week but the club expects to play again in an away game at 14th-ranked GAK in Gleisdorf on Saturday.

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