Update: COVID-19 halts European football

Part 2: European football in jeopardy due to COVID-19

by Daniel Roodt

There have been several developments regarding the impact of COVID-19 on European football since the publication of 'COVID-19 halts European football.' The outbreak has subsequently been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

As of 10 March, it was only Serie A and Swiss Super League that had been suspended. All of Europe’s top five leagues, as well as the Champions League and Europa League, have now been suspended and some players and managers have tested positive for the virus.

UEFA has postponed the Champions League and Europa League fixtures indefinitely from Monday 16 March onwards.

UEFA released a statement on this issue stating, “All matches in UEFA competitions, including the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, will not take place next week.”

The Italian club, AS Roma, was denied permission to land in Seville two days before their Europa League match against Sevilla on Thursday 12 March. Madrid-based club Getafe refused to travel to Milan for their Europa League fixture against Inter Milan. Also, several Champions League and Europa League fixtures were played behind closed doors this past week.

While the postponement is only for next week's games, it will likely be extended due to all of Europe’s top five leagues and other European leagues being suspended. The time frame for these suspensions is dependent on the league organisers, rather than UEFA.

With Italy imposing strict travel restrictions and closing everything but supermarkets and pharmacies, it was obvious that this would affect Serie A. As per The Guardian, the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) has announced that all Italian sport, Including Serie A, will be suspended until 3 April at the earliest. This ban could be further extended, depending on the spread of the virus.

The fate of the league season has been cast into doubt after a number of Serie A players have tested positive for the virus which has led to teams suspending training sessions. These players include Juventus and Italy defender Daniele Rugani, Sampdoria striker Manolo Gabbiadini, Fiorentina forward Patrick Cutrone and several other players at these clubs.

This has led to the players of these clubs having to self-quarantine after coming into direct contact with their teammates. As a result, these teams have been unable to hold training sessions, with players being required to follow rigorous home routines in order to keep fit.

It is not just Italian players who have tested positive for the Coronavirus. As per Italian journalist, Fabrizio Romano, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea and England starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi have also tested positive for the virus.

This has led to the suspension of the Premier League with the BBC stating, “The Premier League said play will start on 4 April subject to conditions at the time.”

It is also likely, given the current status of the virus, that this ban will be further extended. This ban includes all elite football in Britain.

La Liga in Spain has also suspended their next two rounds of fixtures. This is in light of clubs having to suspend training sessions due to the virus as well as bans on mass gatherings.

Photo by Ali Yaqub on Unsplash

[ABOVE: FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stands empty after the suspension of La Liga for the next two weeks.]

A number of La Liga players have also tested positive for the Coronavirus, so this will likely see this suspension extended. According to the New York Times, 35% of the Valencia CF squad and staff have tested positive for the virus. These players include former Manchester City centre back Eliaquim Mangala and Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay.

Earlier this week, all Real Madrid players and staff were sent home and told to self-quarantine for 15 days. This decision was made after one of the Real Madrid basketball players tested positive for the virus. Since the basketball and football teams share the same facilities, the decision was taken to send the players and staff home.

The Bundesliga and Zweite Bundesliga (2nd division) have also been suspended following two Hannover players testing positive for the virus.

According to the BBC, “The DFL (German Football League) recommended a Bundesliga 1 and 2 suspension until 2 April.”

Similar actions have taken place in France, with both Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 being suspended until further notice. This has led to Olympique Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas calling for the current league season to be declared null and void.

This would be very convenient for Lyon, as they currently sit closer to the relegation zone than they do to league leaders PSG.

COVID-19 has not just affected club football, with Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs potentially not being played. This follows the Bosnian Football Association issuing a statement requesting for their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying match vs Northern Ireland to be postponed until further notice.

Bosnian journalist Haris Mrkonja further elaborates on the situation saying that, “99% of the players (of the Bosnian national team) play outside Bosnia.”

As all people entering Bosnia have to undergo 14 days of self-quarantine, the players will not have the time to self-quarantine, due to their club commitments.

This poses a serious threat to the actual Euro 2020 itself. If the final qualifying play-offs cannot be played, then the tournament may not be able to go ahead.

Euro 2020 is being hosted across 14 different European countries for the time in its history.

With large gatherings banned in some of these nations, fans may be unable to attend matches if the tournament ultimately does go ahead.

Paul Pogba via Twitter

[ABOVE: France star, Paul Pogba offers some practical advice on how to ‘beat’ the Coronavirus in collaboration with the WHO.]

A serious question being posed is how to finish league seasons. With no foreseeable end to the COVID-19 outbreak, many leagues may not be able to reach their conclusions. This will lead to issues with deciding who wins the league, who qualifies for European competitions and who gets relegated.

The most radical scenario to solve this issue is declaring the season null and void with no champions being declared and no teams being relegated.

COVID-19 is posing a serious threat to European football. A number of leagues have been suspended and with little time to make up these games, there will be some tough decisions made regarding the fate of the league seasons.


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