How did the Hungarian clubs prepare for the competition’s restart?

Since 23 May NB1 matches behind closed doors were allowed again. As a next phase, a limited amount of fans were allowed back into the stadium soon after. While for the last three competition rounds, a full capacity was allowed. ESSMA interviewed Máté Bálint - International Project Manager at Ferencvárosi TC - and László Erik Horváth - Infrastructure Expert at MLSZ - regarding the Hungarian restart.

How did you keep in touch with your fans until they could get in the stadium?

Bálint: During the most uncertain period of the pandemic, the Media and Communication Department of the Club played an important role. During these weeks, we featured a number of archive materials, contents from our history and “Best of” videos that generated numerous views for the Club in the absence of live sporting events. 

Furthermore, the Club seeks to focus on the most vulnerable and also socially isolated target group at the time of the pandemic, the over-65 age group. By delivering gift packages we tried to make the difficult months of isolation more bearable for them. 

Moreover we have targeted communication towards this group to understand that in order to protect their health, it is not possible for them to watch the games in the stadium for now.

What are your experiences from the first matches after the lockdown has been lifted?

Bálint: On 7 June, Groupama Arena was able to invite between 5500 and 6000 fans (including VIP guests and away fans) back into the stadium. We worked hard so that as many people as possible can return to the stadium for the remaining matches of the league. On matchday 31, over 15.000 fans bought a ticket for the derby against Újpest FC.

At the end of June, we closed the extraordinary and unique 2019/20 season at home, with a celebration of our 31st domestic championship title.

Máté Bálint - International Project Manager at Ferencvárosi TC

Which preparations have taken place to ensure a safe continuing of the competition? 

László: The Hungarian Football Federation Presidency drew up Practical Guidelines for Teams for Health Tests and then the rules by which training and closed goalie matches could be started first. After that, according to the rules set out in the government decree, it was possible to start organising matches with a reduced number of fans, and finally, matches according to the pre-viral situation, without restrictions. 

The final of the Hungarian Cup was played in the 65,000 Puskás Arena on 3 June between Budapest Honvéd FC and Mezőkövesdi SE. This match was at a time when a limited number of spectators could be admitted to the stadiums. Around 10,000 spectators took part in this final.

László Erik Horváth - Infrastructure Expert at MLSZ

Which initiatives has Ferencvárosi TC launched since the beginning of the epidemic?

Bálint:  The senior management of Ferencvárosi TC, as well as the players of its most popular teams (football, handball, hockey and water polo) supported the two most affected hospitals by the epidemic with more than € 85,000. 

Ferencváros TC, the Groupama Arena’s stadium operator, Sportfive and its catering partner, have been cooking and delivering 150 servings of food every day for one and a half months to the health workers and doctors working to combat the epidemic. 

In addition, the Club has delivered gift packages consisting of groceries and club products to its 500 season ticket holder fans over the age of 65. As the most popular multisport club of Hungary, with a fan base of more than 2 million people, our main goal and responsibility is to set an example for our community, a wider range of society and other sports organizations and businesses with our community activities.

How do you look back - as host venue - on the 2020 edition of the ESSMA Summit?

Bálint: We experienced it as a great off-the-pitch success that ESSMA's Advisory Committee selected Groupama Arena as the first medium-sized stadium, and Budapest as the first Central European venue for the ESSMA Summit.

Regardless, before the epidemic, we took it for granted to attend conferences, corporate events, international meetings, and to meet at any time. All of this is highly appreciated in today’s world, with the extraordinary months left behind, and we can also say we were lucky for being able to hold the ESSMA Summit in January with more than 390 participants. We hope the events of 2021 can take place and we are looking forward to meet the members of the ESSMA community in person again.