Due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, it has now been a month since the last top football matches were played at packed stadiums in Europe.
The UEFA Euro 2020 football championship has also been postponed until 2021 due to Coronavirus.
No-one knows for certain when games might be able to commence again, whether behind closed doors or before crowds – or whether each country’s domestic leagues will even be able to conclude.
Furthermore, the psychological impact of the pandemic might mean that people will also have second thoughts about being amongst crowds at a football match in the near future.
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German football authorities are to decide this week whether the Bundesliga matches can resume behind closed doors during May, and players are already back in training.
In the UK, football will not return until it is ‘safe and appropriate’ to do so, the authorities have said – although UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said that there’s ‘no way’ that runaway leaders Liverpool should be denied the Premier League title.
The UEFA organisation itself remains optimistic about finishing the top European tournaments – and it is working on the idea of playing in July and August, if required.
In Spain, La Liga – which still has 11 rounds of matches to be played – was suspended on 12 March, initially for match days 28 and 29, but no games have since been played.
In fact no top Spanish club has played a competitive match since 11 March, when Atletico Madrid knocked holders Liverpool out of the Champions League.
La Liga president Javier Tebas recently said that a best-case scenario for restarting the Spanish league would be 28 May – bearing in mind that Spain’s current ‘state of alarm’ lockdown has already been extended until 26 April.
Prime minister Pedro Sánchez has also stated that it is likely this lockdown could be extended for a further 15 days after that – until Sunday 10 May.
‘We are considering the idea of playing again, in Spain and in other European countries, on 28 May or 6 June,’ Tebas said, although it included different scenarios. He also said that 28 June was an option.
‘We can’t say an exact date. This will be given to us by the authorities in Spain. But we still have time to get back to training before that,’ Tebas added.
Of the different start-date scenarios, one possibility is that Spain’s domestic league starts again first, and then the Champions and the Europa League from the end of June in order not to cause any conflict.
‘For the end of the season we don’t want to go beyond August and it obviously will affect the schedule for next season,’ said Tebas.
If La Liga is delayed until the end of June, Tebas believes that European competitions should be moved to August. He also said that the competition could resume with games behind closed doors or with gradually reduced capacity, following the instructions of the government and health experts.
Tebas also estimated that Spanish clubs could lose one billion euros if the current La Liga season is cancelled – or up to 300m euros if the games are all played behind closed doors.
He is against a change of format in the competition so as not to alter crucial television deals – and he also said that not finishing the League would be catastrophic.
‘If we finish behind closed doors, the economic damage will be 300m euros. If we could play with the public, the losses would still be 150m euros,’ he said.
Tebas is also aware that contracts of players ending on 30 June need to be modified and the date of the transfer window changed, potentially from 1 July to 31 August.
Furthermore he said that the final of the Copa del Rey between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad should be played on 5 August in Seville, although that trophy is the responsibility of the Spanish Football Federation.
He said that it has so far been ‘impossible’ to agree with Spain’s Professional Footballers’ Union (AFE) a salary reduction for the La Liga players, although he hopes that most clubs will reach individual agreements.
‘We are in a crisis with exceptional, unpredictable, and enormous impact. Everyone loses money, it seems normal to me that the salaries of the players should also be reduced,’ said Tebas.