Italian, Spanish officials spell out hope for European football resumption

Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus controls the ball during the Serie A match against Internazionale on March 8 (by Daniele Badolato - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images)

Officials in Italy and Spain have expressed hope that Serie A and LaLiga may be able to restart in May, as Lars-Christer Olsson, chairman of the European Leagues group, stated forward planning is hopeful at present for football bodies facing a “major” liquidity problem amid Covid-19.

All Italian sport is currently suspended until April 3 as a result of the pandemic, of which Italy has been the hardest hit European country with the death toll rising to 2,978 as of yesterday (Wednesday).

Speaking yesterday, Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president, Gabriele Gravina, expressed hope that Serie A could restart on May 2. At present, eight teams have 13 games left to play with the remainder having 12. Four Italian clubs remain in European competition, while a Coppa Italia semi-final, second-round match and final are still to be played.

“I don’t even want to think that we won’t start again, it would be a hiatus, it would worry me for our country,” Gravina told Italian radio. “We’re working on the hypothesis of starting again on May 2 and completing the championships, possibly going into July if we don’t achieve it by June 30. In the event that it’s impossible to use all the windows as planned, we will resort to a change in the format of the competitions.”

Italian Minister for Sport and Youth Policies, Vincenzo Spadafora, supported Gravina’s claims of a possible May 3 resumption. He added: “At least that’s what we hope for. We will then assess whether it will be behind closed or open doors.”

Spain has also been hit hard by Covid-19, on Wednesday confirming 2,538 new cases of infections, bringing the country’s total to 13,716. Speaking to Spanish newspaper Marca, LaLiga president Javier Tebas said European leagues should be able to resume by mid-May, with seasons able to be completed due to the rescheduling of Uefa Euro 2020.

Tebas said: “In mid-May we should be able to be back on with all European competitions. All of them. Of course, it depends on how the pandemic evolves. It could even be before then, but this is the date that we are working on as a latest in order to start up again.”

However, Tebas admitted that it is unclear whether fans will be able to attend games. He added: “All depends on the health authorities in each individual country. We are talking about the schedules of more than 30 league seasons. It all has to be done together.”

European football’s governing body on Tuesday paved the way for leagues to plan finishing their seasons, along with its own Champions League and Europa League tournaments. Uefa decided to postpone its 2020 European Championship by 12 months in a bid to help domestic competitions across Europe be completed.

The move, which was anticipated, came as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak and was echoed by the rescheduling of South America’s Copa América national team tournament until 2021. However, Olsson, a former Uefa general secretary and head of the 29-member European Leagues group, warned against expectations being raised.

“You have no idea if it is going to be possible to play football at the end of May or the middle of June or even afterwards,” he told the Associated Press news agency. “Liquidity is the major problem now. A lot of income is coming at the final phase of the season when you have full stadiums.”

Olsson’s position also makes him a member of Uefa’s Executive Committee. “The most difficult situation in the top leagues is in Italy,” he added. “It’s very important that each league or competition organisers are having a close cooperation with their government.”