EFA Chief Executive Sarwat Swelam (Photo: Ahram Sport)
Egyptian Premiere League matches will continue to be played behind closed doors until the end of the current season, the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) Chief Executive Sarwat Swelam revealed on Wednesday.
"It is confirmed that fans won't return to the stands in the remaining matches of the Egyptian Premiere League," Swelam told Ahram Online.
Spectators were banned from attending domestic football matches since February 2012 when 72 Ahly fans died in the Port Said stadium disaster.
They were banned again in February 2015 when 20 Zamalek fans were killed after police forces used teargas to disperse a crowd of fans attempting to enter Cairo's Air Defence Stadium ahead of a league match with ENPPI.
Swelam's statements implied that the country's most popular clubs such as Ahly, Zamalek and Ismaily would take the most advantage of fans had they been able to return to the stands this season.
"After playing three matches of the league's second round, it's very difficult now to lift the crowd ban as it will be unfair for the teams who already played the first round matches without their fans' presence," Swelam said.
"The security permission wasn't the main issue," he added.
The few successful experiences of fans attending continental matches for Ahly and Zamalek as well as the national team in the last few months recently raised demands to lift the crowd ban for domestic games.
"Minister of Sports Khaled Abdel-Aziz and EFA President Hani Abou-Reida are doing a great job to arrange the return of fans during the remaining matches of the Egypt Cup," Swelam explained.
"We want to make the best use of the national team's recent success at the African Cup of nations to pave the way for fans to return to the current cup competition and then the Egyptian League starting from the new season," he concluded.
The Egypt Cup round of 16 is due to kick off on 27 February. Ahly will be facing Dakhlya, while archrivals Zamalek will take on Harras El-Hodoud.
Ahly currently lead the league table with 49 points after 19 matches, 12 behind third-placed Zamalek who still have two matches in hand.
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