ROME (Reuters) – Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has called for the postponement of next season’s domestic leagues across Europe unless vaccinated fans are permitted to return to stadiums.
Football clubs across the continent have suffered badly from the financial impact of having empty stadiums or reduced capacity crowds since the COVID-19 pandemic struck at the start of 2020.
“To begin a new year with the limitations of COVID is a reality of stupidity. The politicians are not understanding how stupid they are in not considering that,” De Laurentiis told Reuters on Wednesday.
“They must say everybody can go to the stadium if they are vaccinated. Those who have the vaccine passport can go to the stadium.
“The second possibility is to postpone the beginning of the championship in all of Europe. You can start at the end of September, middle of October or November, providing the vaccination is already done for everybody who wants to go to the stadium.”
Napoli finished fifth in Serie A in 2020-21, missing out on a Champions League spot by one point, but De Laurentiis described it as a “falsified” season without supporters in grounds.
In April, a group of 12 elite clubs announced a breakaway Super League in a dramatic attempt to reform European football and, they argued, boost revenue that could then be distributed throughout the sport.
The disastrous plot, masterminded by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, involved Italian clubs Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan but fell apart within 48 hours following a furious public backlash.
“The mistake of Perez was to just say ‘we are 12’. No, listen – you are not a king. We are all equal in a democracy,” De Laurentiis said.
“Everybody has the possibility to dream to participate in the maximum competition. But what is this maximum competition?”
Plans to protect the founding clubs by assuring them of a place in the competition every year were particularly unpopular and while De Laurentiis disagreed with the Super League project, he believes reform is needed.
“UEFA, FIFA, please sit down with us, all the European leagues, let’s decide what changes we must make,” he said.
“UEFA is showing to be old fashioned. It does not have the capacity to renew itself. We have to change everything, we must put a stop on the past and think to the future.”
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Ed Osmond)