SPORT | Red Card For Virus As Saudi Pro League Returns With Riyadh Derby

RIYADH | SAUDI ARABIA – The most popular rivalry in the Saudi Pro League (SPL) will take center stage as Al-Nassr host Al-Hilal on Wednesday, with safety precautions to allow the safe return of football in the Kingdom.

The eagerness for football’s return will be highlighted when players arrive fully kitted at King Fahd Stadium, ready to take to the pitch for the Riyadh derby on Wednesday night.

The kit rule is one of a string of new measures put in place during every league game to ensure the safe return of the country’s most popular sport, as players and coaches prepare for the SPL after a 144-day absence with a full round of fixtures starting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Fans are unable to attend games due to social distancing rules, while other regulations have been put in place behind the scenes ahead of the season resuming on Tuesday night.

Players would usually arrive at stadium on team buses, but these will be now be reduced to smaller convoys with staggered team arrivals. Players will turn up in their kit ready to take straight to the pitch to warm up ahead of the game in order to avoid large numbers in changing rooms.

About 30 precautions are being implemented across match days aside from spectator bans, with clubs and players agreeing to rules set out by the SPL and Ministry of Sport.

Arrival points at stadium will be spread out for teams and staff, while a maximum of five players will be allowed in changing rooms at one time.

While a lot of works has gone into the safety preparations behind the scene, players will also avoid shaking hands or hugging on the pitch. Dugouts will be restricted to nine coaching staff and substitutes, with others seated in the stands while wearing masks.

On match days, stadium will be disinfected, including changing rooms, corridors, advertising and even corner flags, with the league ensuring safety standards are maintained during the remaining eight rounds of fixtures.

Fans will not be allowed in stadiums but can still get behind their team and show their support through the SPL’s #OurLeageIsBack digital campaign, which encourages supporters to share messages and join the conversation online.

Take part on Twitter at @SPL, Instagram at SaudiProLeague, Facebook at SaudiProLeagueSPL and by using the hashtag #OurLeagueIsBack.

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