Swiss stadiums can be two-thirds full from October 1

BERN (Reuters) - Switzerland’s professional soccer and ice hockey teams will be allowed to have their stadiums up to two thirds full from October, the federal government said on Wednesday.

However, health minister Alain Berset told a news conference that spectators would need to wear face masks, that no standing or away fans would be allowed and that clubs still needed authorisation from their respective cantons.

At present, a maximum of 1,000 spectators are allowed to attend matches as part of Switzerland’s COVID-19 restrictions.

The decision means that FC Basel’s St-Jakob Park stadium, the biggest in country, could accommodate over 25,000 fans and Bern’s Stade de Suisse, the home of Young Boys, just over 20,000.

The clubs had warned that they might not survive if the restriction on spectators was not lifted soon.

Switzerland’s soccer clubs depend far more on gate receipts and other match day revenues that their counterparts in bigger leagues, where television provides the bulk of the income.

“This gives clubs a new perspective,” said Swiss Football League chief executive Claudius Schaeffer, adding that fans who broke rules would face a stadium ban.

Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond