Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, has called for an investigation into how 3,000 fans were granted permission to travel to the city for a crunch UEFA Champions League tie in March amid a partial Spanish lockdown.
Liverpool’s match with Atletico Madrid took place on March 11 in a packed stadium of more than 52,000 supporters, several thousand of whom had traveled from Madrid.
Spain had reported around 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases at that time, though those numbers surged soon after. Madrid has since tallied more than 7,600 deaths.
The UK government defended its stance on not canceling public events in early March, but reversed their decision 10 days later. No football has taken place in England since.
Rotheram has called for an independent investigation into how the decision was made to allow thousands of Madrid-based supporters into England, causing a potential explosion in the city’s confirmed coronavirus cases.
“If people have contracted coronavirus as a direct result of a sporting event that we believe shouldn’t have taken place, well that is scandalous,” he said to the BBC.
“That’s put not just those people in danger, but those frontline staff in the NHS and others in their own families that may have contracted it.”
A recent study has shown that 246 people have died in Liverpool’s NHS hospitals since, while Spain has become the second most-affected region in the world behind the United States.
“We’ve seen an increase in the infection curve, and that’s resulted in 1,200 people [in Liverpool] contracting COVID-19,” said Rotheram.
“That needs to be investigated to find out whether some of those infections are due directly to the Atletico fans. There were coronavirus hot cities, and Madrid was one of those.
“They weren’t allowed to congregate in their own country, but 3,000 of those fans came over to ours, and potentially may well have spread coronavirus. So it does need looking at, and it does need the government to take some responsibility for not locking down sooner.”
Both the mayor of Madrid and Liverpool city council’s director of public health Matthew Ashton have both since labelled the decision to allow the match to go ahead as planned as a “mistake“.