The world of football is experiencing an unusual situation. The coronavirus pandemic It has completely stopped the ball, shaking an industry that seemed irrepressible four weeks ago, when the Italian Serie A announced on March 9 its suspension due to the serious health situation in the country. The rest of tournaments were crumbling one after another. On March 12, it was the Spanish League that closed. A day later it was the turn of the English Premier League, the French Ligue 1 and the German Bundesliga. With the ‘Big Five’ out of the game, other championships were reluctant to lower the curtain, but the explosion of the epidemic made their leaders recoil. UEFA also succumbed, which on March 17 postponed the European Championship until the summer of 2021. The Champions League and the Europa League were also suspended ‘sine die’, depriving millions of fans of their favorite pastime.
Sports cities and stadiums remain closed, but managers’ telephones smoke as videoconference meetings follow, sketching calendars for the return of the competition, once the health situation allows it. Everything is tinged with uncertainty, but steps are taken with a common purpose: interrupted tournaments are completed so as not to suffer multi-million dollar losses that would lead the clubs to a desperate financial situation. That will mean playing in the summer, with a hectic pace and delaying the start of the following season. There are several alternatives, always subject to the opinion of the authorities and the guidelines of UEFA, which threatened those who are tempted to follow the Belgian example and prematurely shelve them, signaling that their teams could stay out of Europe.
Championship stopped in the absence of eleven days and with Barcelona leader, the employers’ meetings with the clubs and with the Association of Spanish Soccer Players (AFE) follow one another, while dialogue with the Federation continues. LaLiga considers that June 27 could be the deadline to resume the season. If it cannot be done, some losses that would touch the billion euros. The clubs would face a devastating scenario and employers demand that footballers reduce damage by reducing wages. It is the worst possible horizon.
The blow would be less in the other two options that LaLiga handles: play behind closed doors or do it with the public, although the latter looks like an entelechy. The most optimistic date is the weekend of May 29 and 30, which would allow finishing at the beginning of July compressing two days per week, as long as the Champions and the Europa League were auctioned off at the conclusion of the domestic championships. If the hiatus is extended until June, the idea of combining European tournaments with national ones is considered, which would extend the campaign until the beginning of August. In case the return takes longer, July could be used for the leagues and August for the continental competitions.
With the Liverpool leading the tournament with a 25 point advantage over the second classified, the Manchester City, in the absence of nine days -except for four teams that have one more left-, the prospects begin to be bleak in the Premier, which has seen other illustrious events on the British sports calendar such as Wimbledon or the Golf Open being canceled .
Nothing is ruled out, from holding the remaining section of the league behind closed doors at certain stadiums so that the squads and the technical bodies can isolate and focus on a base camp, in the manner of the teams participating in a World Cup, to the cancellation . Completing the campaign would ensure that clubs receive full television rights, about 843 million euros, which they would not receive if it goes to waste. The resumption scheduled for early May has already been postponed and will not be played again until the Boris Johnson government deems it safe. The clubs request that their footballers reduce their wages by 30% to face the economic crisis.
Suspended until at least April 30, the German Football League (DFL) is evaluating the possibilities to resume activities, assuming it will have to be behind closed doors. «It is not realistic to imagine playing with the public this season», Indicated a few days ago its maximum leader, Christian Seifert. A special medical commission is studying the options for a return to competition and the control rules for club management have been relaxed.
When the break occurred, nine of the 34 scheduled days remained to be held, with Bayern Munich leading the table with a four point lead over Borussia Dortmund, five on RB Leipzig and six on Borussia Mönchengladbach. Finishing the Bundesliga is vital to the survival of many clubs that depend on sponsorship and television rights. Four of the greats of German football – Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen – have created a solidarity fund to which they each contribute 20 million euros to alleviate the situation of the most affected.
The first of the big leagues to stop her march dreamed of the ball rolling again on May 20, something almost unthinkable if the confinement is prolonged. “The absolute priority is to finish the championships,” said Gabriele Gravina, president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), who does not welcome the campaign until August or beyond. “I don’t want to risk ruining another season to save this one,” said Gravina, who ruled out handing over the title to Juventus, the current leader, in case the course cannot be saved.
Italian league and footballers union discuss salary reductions that would save clubs more than one hundred million euros in three months, alleviating losses that would be ten times more. Juventus have already reached an agreement with their squad. Six modest teams -Brescia, Udinese, SPAL, Torino, Sampdoria and Genoa- do not want to play again. Others like Milan, Fiorentina and Cagliari are hesitant, but the great press to end the season.
The president of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graët, has made it clear that there will be no matches until the French government authorizes them. «The goal is to return as quickly as possible, but without jeopardizing the health of spectators and players“, he claimed.
He PSG dominated with an iron fist Ligue 1 when the championship stopped in the absence of ten days. He took twelve points from second place, Olympique de Marseille, and also has a postponed match against Strasbourg.
The pressure of television operators is already taking its toll –Canal + and beIN Sports have announced that they will not pay the next bills, with which this month some 153 million euros will fly – and according to ‘Le Parisien’ some teams have requested the Professional Football League (LFP) to train and play again as soon as possible to cushion the financial damage.