Premier League to kick-off behind closed doors but matches streamed live

The Malta Football Association is planning to start the BOV Premier League and BOV Challenge League as originally scheduled – the weekend between Friday 11 and Sunday 13 September – but matches would be played behind closed doors. This was announced by MFA President Bjorn Vassallo and general secretary Dr Angelo Chetcuti during a press briefing held via video-conference on Thursday.

Vassallo revealed that the association will be investing in cameras which will be installed at four stadiums – the National Stadium, the Centenary Stadium, the Hibernians Stadium and the Victor Tedesco Stadium – in order to be able to broadcast the matches in live streaming apart from the matches which are usually broadcast on TV.

The MFA President explained that with regards to return to activity, the first target was the national teams’ commitments and the Maltese clubs’ participation in European competitions.

Vassallo said clubs were lucky to be drawn with teams who were coming from the so-called ‘safe countries’ and therefore there would be no need for quarantine.

According to the UEFA Return to Play protocol, it is strongly recommended for teams to travel to UEFA matches on charter flights. Teams should liaise with the airport authorities at both departure and arrival airports to determine whether special arrangements can be made to minimise contact with the general public, such as the use of a VIP customs and transfer service. The host team must make every effort to facilitate the arrival and transfer of the visiting team. This should include direct collection in a private bus at the aircraft, private passage through customs and direct passage, avoiding public spaces where possible, to their bus. When possible, the return flight should take place immediately after the match.

Teams will be subject to testing before each match in the relevant UEFA competition. For the visiting team: testing will take place before leaving their home country while for the Home team, testing will take place on MD-2 or MD-1.

Matches will be played behind closed doors and therefore no general public may be admitted to the stadium. Only officials, people with a working function and accredited media/journalists are permitted to be in the stadium.

As regards domestic competitions, the focus will be on restarting the Premier League and the Challenge League as originally planned. The Youth League would also start in mid-September. The National Amateur League and the Gozo Football Leagues will start at a later stage as one also had to take into consideration the protocols which need to be followed which may prove not to be sustainable. Women’s and the Futsal competitions are also expected to start at a later stage since they are held on a smaller format.

The MFA President announced that competitions organised by the Youth FA would start in line with schools. Recreational football – competitions organised by member associations – will also kick-off later.

The medical and operational protocols are being prepared by a consultative body which has been set up to address such matters in view of the evolving scenarios and difficulties created by this pandemic.

The MFA President said that even for friendly matches and tournaments currently being held as part of the pre-season training, these were ideally held behind closed-doors as otherwise an impact assessment was necessary.P