Fans may be able to attend Turkish football matches in July, says federation president

Fans may be able to attend Turkish football matches in July, “even though there is a decision to play without spectators for now,” Turkish Football Federation (TFF) President Nihat Özdemir said during a televised interview on Saturday.

Turkey’s Super League, which was suspended on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to resume on June 12.

Teams will frequently test players for COVID-19 during training, and when the Super League resumes, Özdemir said. “There may be positive cases among them. They will sideline those, and continue on their way.”

Germany’s Bundesliga has decided to push forward “even if there are 14 players left in a team, they want to play the matches no matter what happens,” he continued. “Our determination is also as such.”

Many players and staff members at Turkish football clubs have recently tested positive for the coronavirus, with Istanbul club Beşiktaş reporting on Thursday eight confirmed cases, including the club’s president.

The TFF has consulted with Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in making its decisions for Turkey’s leagues, Özdemir said.

The TFF’s plan is to complete Super League matches by the end of July, and by late August to have hosted the Champions League final, which had been scheduled to be held in Istanbul this year, Özdemir said.

Özdemir said the TFF presented Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca with the protocol to return to football, and the minister approved of the plan - which foresees the Super League resuming on June 12, the second tier resuming a week later, and the third, fourth, and amateur regional leagues resuming in July.  

Koca said it was the TFF’s decision to make as it is an autonomous entity.

Football teams have no reservations on resuming the leagues, unlike volleyball and basketball teams who objected to playing as their sports take place indoors, Özdemir said.

When the football season resumes, home teams will continue to play in their own stadiums, Özdemir said – adding that neither the TFF nor the Sports Ministry had any plans to hold matches played in a dedicated stadium in Istanbul or the southern Antalya province.

“We have no knowledge of such a thing,” he said. “We will see where the process goes in the next month, and make a decision accordingly.”

The TFF will mediate issues that may arise if a player does not want to go back to work, Özdemir said. “The basis is the player’s contract with the club,” he said. “It is important to be just. These decisions are harder to make under coronavirus conditions,” he continued, as football clubs have lost match day revenues.

It would be unjust to cancel the season and declare the current standings as final in Turkey, as has been done in some European countries, because there are several teams that have the chance to become champions or to escape relegation, Özdemir said. “The only option we have in such a breathtaking league is to play it out.”…