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RFEF agrees to Copa del Rey final postponement

Portu of Real Sociedad controls the ball during the LaLiga match against Athletic Club (by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has agreed to a request from Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad to ensure the 2019-20 Copa del Rey final is played in front of fans, meaning the two clubs are likely to give up the Uefa Europa League qualification slot winning the tournament provides.

Athletic and Real were due to face each other at the Estadio de La Cartuja in Seville on April 18, only for the final to be postponed due to the wider lockdown of Spanish football amid Covid-19.

While the game could have been held behind closed doors, both Athletic and Real are keen that their fans are allowed to attend. In a statement, the RFEF said: “The RFEF fully shares the desire of Athletic Club and Real Sociedad to play the final of the Copa del Rey when health and sports circumstances allow the final to be held open to the public and with the presence of all those fans who wish to attend.

“For this, the RFEF thanks the decision and the joint request of both clubs and will articulate the necessary regulatory mechanisms so that the final of the Copa del Rey is played as an official competition at the appropriate time during the year 2020 or 2021…before the final of the 2020-21 season is disputed.”

Spanish football bodies are moving forward with plans to complete the 2019-20 season, likely behind closed doors, meaning that Athletic and Real’s focus on having their fans in the stadium for the Copa del Rey final will mean that the tournament’s European qualification slot will go to the club finishing seventh in LaLiga.

Meanwhile, LaLiga has confirmed that clubs will return to training this week with a view to resuming the season in June. This comes after Spain’s Ministry of Health approved the resumption of sports training amid the lockdown that has been in place in the country since March 12.

In accordance with the Return to Training Protocol that LaLiga has drawn up with medical experts, solo training of professional players from the top two divisions will begin, after a medical examination by the club services.

The return to training has been planned by LaLiga with measures that have been agreed with the sports and health authorities in order to guarantee greater safety for the health of all those involved.

These measures include a period of approximately one month with different phases, subject to the de-escalation process established by the government.

Together with medical controls, a staggered return to training has been designed that will cover moving from solo training to group exercise prior to the return to competition scheduled for June. LaLiga president Javier Tebas said: “This crisis has had a profound impact on all of us. The return of football is a sign that society is progressing to the new normal. It will also bring back an element of life that people in Spain and around the world know and love.

“Health is paramount, so we have a comprehensive protocol to safeguard the health of everyone involved as we work to restart LaLiga. Circumstances are unprecedented, but we hope to start playing again in June and finish our 19-20 season this summer. To return is to win.”

Spain’s National Sports Council (CSD) last month brought together LaLiga and the RFEF to form a pathway to return the domestic game amid Covid-19. In a statement, the CSD said the return of professional football training would be subject to the “evolution” of the pandemic and decisions adopted by the Ministry of Health.

Earlier in April, Tebas insisted that the top tier of Spanish football would finish its 2019-20 season this summer.