By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Can UEFA execute the 2020 Super Cup?

As international football prepares to return for the first time since an unprecedented global pandemic shook up the world, planning, coordination, and execution of even footballing exhibition matches find themselves under the microscope this year.
Hungarian officials announced new COVID-influenced travel restrictions on Tuesday, casting doubt on the ability of UEFA to carry through with its plans for the scheduled SuperCup match in Budapest on September 24th. The country will now require foreigners to provide more explicit explanations for entry at the border. Such constraints may affect the many actors—player, officials, club staff, media, and fans—seeking to take part in the fixture.

The Autumn exhibition traditionally pits the winners of the UEFA Champions league tournament against the club that captured the UEFA Europa League crown. The many changes brought about by the global pandemic this year include a shift in date and venue. UCL-Winners FC Bayern München, slated to face UEL-prizewinners FC Sevilla, have also been granted a deferral in Germany’s opening round of the DFB-Pokal so that the team may compete in this match.

UEFA initially disclosed audacious plans to allow the 67,000-seat Puskas Arena in Budapest to operate at 33 percent fan-capacity. It remains unclear as to whether the new developments will alter plans to proceed with this bold experiment. A UEFA press release could only confirm that the stakeholders are in contact with those responsible for hosting.

“UEFA is working closely with the Hungarian Football Association and its government to implement measures ensuring the health and safety of all spectators and participants in the match. The new entry requirements are, accordingly, part of these discussions,” a statement read.

In the current Corona-landscape, European FAs across the continent have proven, through the completion of their domestic leagues, that football can largely be conducted safety. Moreover, UEFA’s conclusion of its 2019/20 club competitions at neutral venues counts as a significant logistical success.

This week’s resumption of the UEFA Nations League constitutes the next step in seeing as to whether the footballing calendar can still operate within the parameters of the “new normal”. The execution of international football brings with it many new challenges. Clubs must feel safe releasing their players for national team duties, travel must be tightly coordinated, and cross-border testing regimes must be implemented.

Events in the German Bundesliga demonstrate how problematic this process may be. At the beginning of the pandemic, VfL Wolfsburg Managing Director Jörg Schmadtke’s insistence that he would not allow his players to leave to play for their countries quickly led to other clubs making the same proclamation. SV Werder Bremen initially barred three of its players—Milot Rashica, Miljkovic, and Tahith Chong—from joining their respective national teams last week. Rahica and Chong were eventually granted dispensations.

While the UEFA Super Cup may not be considered to be the most important of fixtures by fans and players alike, the question as to whether complex trans-border events can be held as planned elevate its importance in this most unusual of years.

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