Portuguese teams wrangle over stadiums ahead of restart

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal’s professional soccer league is due to restart on June 4 after the coronavirus stoppage but the question of which stadiums should host matches is threatening to become a bone of contention.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Round of 32 Second Leg - FC Porto v Bayer Leverkusen - Estadio do Dragao, Porto, Portugal - February 27, 2020 General view outside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Miguel Vidal/File Photo

The government’s health directorate (DGS) has said in its medical guidelines that as few stadiums as possible should be used to complete the season, although it did not stipulate a number, and the Portuguese league began inspections on Thursday.

It quickly became clear that teams were determined to play in their own stadiums even though home advantage may count for little as all matches will be without spectators.

Madeira-based side Maritimo were the most outspoken and the club’s football director Nuno Pereira said they would launch a legal challenge if they were not allowed to play in their own Barreiros stadium.

“Our stadium meets all the requirements, it is one of the most modern in Portuguese football,” he told RTP television.

“There are not many COVID-19 cases in Madeira, the situation is under control. If we are forced to go to stay on the mainland, the players would be confined in a hotel and they would be running a greater risk in health terms.

“It also puts us at a disadvantage in relation to our opponents. It would devalue the championship.”

Portimonense’s majority shareholder Theodoro Fonseca said it would be an injustice if the Algarve-based club were not allowed to play at their Municipal Stadium.

“We fulfil all the requirements,” he said. “I will be very sad if they make us play somewhere else.”

The sports daily A Bola said that Benfica were reluctant to play any away matches in the stadium of arch-rivals Porto, which could be used as a host ground for a number of teams.

Benfica also did not want their own stadium to host matches between other teams and Porto, it said. There was no official comment from Benfica.

Vitoria Setubal were another to defend their right to play at home.

“It’s true that it’s old and not completely as we would like, but there is an undeniable fact: the Bonfim stadium has everything that the DGS asks for,” said club president Paulo Gomes in a statement.

“The teams do not cross paths and they only need to go five metres to get to the pitch... Vitoria is Setubal’s team and we will fight to continue playing in Setubal, although this doesn’t mean we will put a spanner in the works of the championship.”

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Toby Davis