Credit: BNS | BasketNews illustration/E.Alšauskas
Credit BNS | BasketNews illustration/E.Alšauskas

Last month EuroLeague published research that showed the popularity rise and growth of live TV audiences. However, the study also showed that the fans were eager to return to arenas for live basketball action.

So what can European basketball fans expect from this upcoming season? Two years ago, the EuroLeague canceled its competitions with six games remaining in the regular season. Last year, teams mostly played in empty arenas in front of papercut fans. 

BasketNews looked into the clubs' public information and spoke to teams representatives regarding their fan-attendance policies and regulations for the 2021-22 season. As most of the executives emphasized, the situation regarding live crowds is very fluid and can change dramatically at any point. Several clubs were still waiting on government directives, while others were cautiously optimistic about their process of season ticket sales.

Credit BasketNews illustration

We want to remind our readers that the provided information was based on data collected as of this Monday (August 30). For the latest news and regulations, please check the respective club's information.

Season ticket sales

Perhaps the greatest sign of imminent fan return to the arenas is the availability of season tickets. However, only half of EuroLeague's teams are currently selling season tickets. Others are still waiting or have outright decided not to sell season tickets for the upcoming EuroLeague campaign.

Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv seem to be at the forefront of the surge to getting back to normal. The Israeli club has already sold 9,500 season tickets and expects the remaining 500 to be gone soon as well. Tel Aviv is among very few teams that do not anticipate any limitations on live crowd capacity.

The Greek club Olympiacos has sold over 2,000 season tickets so far and plans on reaching its target of 3,600. However, the Piraeus team will probably have to play in front of an 80% filled arena (roughly 8,000 spectators). The same goes also for their arch-rivals, Panathinaikos OPAP Athens, despite the overwhelming capacity of the vast OAKA arena (18,500 seats).

Zalgiris Kaunas - EuroLeague's leaders in regular-season attendance for the past four years - are selling 3,000 season tickets this season. The Lithuanian powerhouse plans on selling 75% of the arena's seats, so we can only hope for an exciting atmosphere in front of solid crowds in Kaunas.

Another country famous for basketball-crazy fans, Serbia, will have a chance to enjoy Crvena Zvezda games live. The club indicated that the plan was to compete in front of a 50 percent capacity crowd. The Belgrade team plans to sell at least 1,400 season tickets and is working hard to bring fans back to the arena. "Our membership cardholders will receive a small present from the club," informed Crvena Zvezda in an email message.

Limitations on the number of live attendants

Only two clubs at the moment are planning on playing in front of their full-capacity crowds. Currently, those are Maccabi and LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne. The rest of Europe's elite have limitations ranging from 35% (Italy) to 80% (Greece). 

The Italian teams have indicated that having below 50% of capacities is simply not sustainable for the business. And they hope that such a limit could be raised in time for the upcoming season.

The majority of the clubs are working with the assumption that some type of crowd limits will be in place during an upcoming season. Some teams operate with percentage guidances, while others have a certain number of spectators that they're allowed to admit. For example, ALBA Berlin must follow instructions of 2,000 spectators for an indoor event; while, CSKA currently has a limitation of 3,000 people for a live crowd.

Requirement for fans

It appears that masked fans will replace papercut fans, as the masks will most likely be mandatory in 17 (out of 18) arenas. Only ASVEL indicated that mask-wearing would only be recommended.

Also, every arena will ask for proof of at least one of the following: vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, negative test. Depending on the country, various health passports (issued for fully vaccinated people) will be acceptable or required. 

All EuroLeague teams that BasketNews has contacted have indicated that they were working hard on trying to provide a safe environment so that the basketball fans could finally return to arenas and enjoy the sport they love. 

"We are taking all the necessary measures in order to welcome our fans, observing all health protocols. The absence of our fans from the stands last season, due to the COVID ban, had a multi-faceted cost and saddened us all. Fans are an integral part of this team and we will do everything necessary so that we do not have to part with them again," Stavros Ntinos, Panathinaikos BC OPAP Chief Operations Officer, told BasketNews.

: Panathinaikos OPAP BC are taking all the necessary measures
in order to welcome their fans, observing all health protocols. The absence of
our fans from the stands last season, due to the COVID ban, had a multi-
faceted cost on us and saddened us all. Fans are an integral part of this team
and we will do everything necessary so that we do not have to part with them
again

"A friendly tournament on September 4-5 will serve as a rehearsal for the new season. We will try to do our best to safeguard the health of everyone and we will observe all the protocols of both the state and the EuroLeague. We will take all protective measures, which will include the disinfection of the stadium," outlined their action plan Olympiacos Piraeus.

: Panathinaikos OPAP BC are taking all the necessary measures
in order to welcome their fans, observing all health protocols. The absence of
our fans from the stands last season, due to the COVID ban, had a multi-
faceted cost on us and saddened us all. Fans are an integral part of this team
and we will do everything necessary so that we do not have to part with them
again

"We will put in place double rings of control outside the Stark Arena (test control and temperature control). We will have stands with sanitizers, more security guys to control that every fan wears a mask," informed Crvena Zvezda Belgrade.

Many in the industry believe and hope that the return of sports might surpass pre-pandemic fan engagement levels. It is obvious, people do miss live sports events. The unique ability of sports to bring together and connect large groups of people globally exhibits characteristics of immunity and resilience to COVID-19. And that's exactly what we are wishing for to all EuroLeague teams in the upcoming season.

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