As the world still grapples with the reality of living in a pandemic, football has been halted for over a month with professional leagues all over the world, barring a few exceptions, suspended or cancelled.
With Turkmenistan and Belarus still having a kick-about under certain restrictions, how are the major leagues in Europe coping against the Covid-19 outbreak?
PREMIER LEAGUE IN LIMBO
After the season was indefinitely suspended, Premier League clubs called a video meeting on Friday to discuss how the season can be completed when the government declares it is safe for it to resume.
Considering all the “complex planning scenarios”, the league indicated in an official statement that the objective is to complete the 2019/20 season only when the “full support” of the government is available. The clubs, on the other hand, are playing their own part to help in the ongoing crisis, with Brighton turning its Amex Stadium into a Covid-19 testing centre.
The Football League (EFL), which represents the three divisions below the Premier League, has said that teams should not return to training before May 16 “at the earliest”. But counting the time that players might need to train, the earliest possible return looks to be in June, and might even be behind closed doors.
LA LIGA TO RETURN TO TRAINING
On Tuesday, in an attempt to bring back football to the country, La Liga and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) agreed a return to training protocol for professional players.
“This decision remains controlled by the evolution of the Covid-19 pandemic and by the decisions adopted by the Ministry of Health,” the Spanish National Sports Council (CSD) said in a statement. “La Liga clubs will train again when health conditions allow it, and by following strict health protocols.”
Last week, La Liga president Javier Tebas said that play could restart in early May but a lockdown extension by the government till May 9 has scuppered those plans. The mayor of Madrid though, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, believes that the league, which was halted on March 12, will take place in empty stadiums at least until the end of the summer.
HIGH HOPES FOR BUNDESLIGA
After receiving assurances from the country’s health minister and regional leaders, Bundesliga now aims to return to action as early as May 9 — even if it means playing in closed stadiums.
“It is our task to repay this trust. It is the task of the clubs, but also of the players. It’s a matter of being particularly disciplined,” said Christian Seifert, CEO of the German Football League (DFL). Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have so far welcomed the news, but several fan groups have opposed the proposal so far because of the risk it holds. So, there’s still the need for proper coronavirus testing and political backing.
Seifert will host a video conference with the clubs on Thursday to discuss the latest developments and consider a possible restart date after the league was called off on March 13. The DFL is desperate for the season to be finished by June 30 to secure an installment of television money, reportedly worth around €300million.
SERIE A TO CONTINUE SEASON
Despite reports of seven clubs being against the return of football during the pandemic, Serie A arrived at a unanimous decision on Tuesday to continue the ongoing season.
“The Assembly of the Serie A League met this morning and confirmed, with the unanimous vote of all twenty associated clubs in video conference, the intention to complete the 2019-2020 sports season,” Serie A said in a statement. It added that any resumption will adhere to the “regulations laid out by FIFA and UEFA” and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), and will be “in compliance with medical protocols to protect the players”.
FIGC and Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora will have a meeting on Wednesday to present the medical protocol established for the resumption of competition. FIGC President Gabriele Gravina said on Friday that he is hopeful that matches can resume “in late May, early June”.
CONFUSION ENGULFS LIGUE 1
After reports claimed that Ligue 1 might be restarted in June, confusion rules large as to whether the league should resume amid the coronavirus pandemic. The co-president of the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) called for the league to stop, while coaches in the top two divisions have expressed diverging opinions.
But Ligue 1’s governing body, LFP, voted on April 10 to consider resuming on June 17 and concluding the games by July 25. In that hypothetical scenario, next season would start on August 22. On Friday though, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet said that the season could resume in June with two cup finals — the Coupe de France final on either June 13 or 20, and the Coupe de la Ligue final three days later.
Meanwhile, UEFA held a video conference with all 55 member associations on Tuesday and gave a “strong recommendation” to the federations to attempt to finish the current season once the conditions are safe enough.