May 4, 2020 / 1:56 PM / 23 days ago

Soccer-Athletic, Sociedad keen to play Copa final with spectators

May 4 (Reuters) - Spanish soccer clubs Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad want their postponed Copa del Rey final to be rescheduled for when the coronavirus is no longer a threat so it can be played with spectators, they said in a joint statement on Monday.

The first final between the two prestigious Basque clubs was due to be held on April 18 in Seville until all organised soccer was indefinitely postponed in March as COVID-19 swept Spain.

Stakeholders are confident the Spanish league season can resume in mid-June in closed stadiums without spectators, with fans not expected to be able to return to grounds until 2021.

But the Copa finalists do not wish the showpiece match to take place in an empty stadium and are willing to wait as long as it takes to ensure their fans can enjoy the final.

“The presidents of Copa del Rey finalists Athletic Club and Real Sociedad, after meeting with the president of the Spanish soccer association, have agreed to request that the final is played with supporters at a later date to be agreed by the three parties,” the clubs said.

“Both clubs have always wanted our supporters to be able to attend the match, what we want more than anything is to have a Cup final with our supporters in the stands.”

The statement added that the two clubs had asked the federation’s executive committee at its next meeting on May 8 to guarantee that the final would be declared an official competition and would be played with fans present.

Over 25,000 people have died from the novel coronavirus in Spain although the daily infection rate and death toll has dropped significantly as a result of one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.

On Monday, professional athletes were able to train on an individual basis for the first time since the crisis began although soccer clubs are not expected to return to training grounds until their players have tested negative for the virus. (Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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