After football crowds rise, Israel gears up for fanless games

Although the search for a record two million total attendance is over, the Israeli Premier League It will resume on May 30 with a title race and renewed popularity among fans.

No games have been played since March 1, when the 26-game regular season ended with crowds 25% higher than last year and is about to set a league record.

Defending champion Maccabi Tel-Aviv accounted for much of the increase, drawing more than 20,000 per game to the renewed Bloomfield Stadium shared with two other top-tier teams.

That was a great contribution, and because it was a very competitive season, league vice president Motty Bronshtein told The Associated Press on Friday. Once he stopped, everyone yearned for him to return.

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Maccabi Tel-Aviv are undefeated and lead by six points from Maccabi Haifa as the league is divided into a six-team championship group and an eight-team relegation group.

The 10-round championship tournament could not start before the Israeli government closed sports on March 13, days after the first match in an empty stadium as soccer tried to continue in the extended outbreak.

Thirty thousand fans received the cancellation a few hours before the game, Bronshtein said of the March 9 national cup quarterfinals between Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Be'er Sheva.

The shutdown in world sports meant a great game for the Israel national team was also postponed, probably until October.

Israel would travel to Scotland for a tiebreaker at the 2020 European Championship on March 26. Israel Football Association United UEFA in 1994, and their teams participate in European competitions due to political complications faced by many Asian nations.

The rest of the Israeli season will take place in empty stadiums, such as in South Korea, Germany and other countries that will restart games this month.

Players will live in quarantine at home with their families and any positive tests for coronavirus We will see teammates in contact during the previous 14 days isolate themselves.

Israel, a nation of nine million people, reported 245 known deaths, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University on Friday.

Any competitive soccer is a win for fans who United a "Bring Back Our Football" campaign on social media.

This decision restores some normalcy to our lives and allows the Israeli public a respite from many weeks of isolation and anxiety, said Erez Halfon, president of the Israeli Professional Soccer League .

Halfon once a close aide to the former prime minister Ariel sharon He said the decision to restart went beyond protecting the financial stability of the game. The clubs are seeking talks with the government about financial aid.

In general, the clubs are delighted. Because no one believed soccer would return, Bronshtein said.

The league's streaming deal is worth 127 million shekels ($ 36 million) each year from a pay-TV operator that sublicense the games.

It is important to us to keep our broadcasters happy. They pay us a very fair amount, Bronshtein said, adding that this season has already been paid.

The league's main sponsor, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, also supports it, he said.

As one of the first leagues set to resume among UEFA members, Israel also wants to beat the Aug. 3 target to complete domestic seasons.

No one, Bronshtein said, wants to play on the hot August nights.