Monday’s soccer news starts with Spain’s domestic leagues now turning toward the government to approve an eventual restart. Though international soccer is well on record for not wanting government interference in a country’s soccer operations, Spain is moving ahead with a common sense move other countries should follow.
“The Monitoring Commission established by the current RFEF-LaLiga Coordination Agreement AGREES the suspension of professional football competitions until the authorities of the Government of Spain and the General Administration of the State consider that they can be resumed without creating any health risk,” their statement read.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino indicated the same in an interview with Italy’s Gazetta dello Sport, saying “Federations and leagues are ready to follow the recommendations of the governments and WHO.” Formalizing that as Spain did earlier today would help with soccer’s current waiting game. Setting dates that few expect are reasonable isn’t helping the game right now.
England’s Premier League got a lot of praise last week for not setting another date to potentially resume play and also not canceling the season outright. Both of those were soccer decisions. What’s more important is the public health decision. Not letting in fans doesn’t mitigate the risk to players and personnel, something we’re already seeing with athletes and support staff contracting the virus. Soccer authorities shouldn’t be making public health decisions, full stop. That’s the responsibility of governments.
Italian media is asking whether the Atalanta vs Valencia Champions League game held in Milan helped spread the virus. It’s that kind of scenario that should have soccer authorities looking for government advice in deciding when it’s worth the risk to resume seasons. It’s not that leaning on governments will guarantee a correct course. It’s that this is an issue that is bigger than the business of soccer. That might seem like an obvious statement, but we already know that it’s not. Leagues continued past the point of common sense, hoping that the outbreaks were localized and containable. When they weren’t, there was still the pressure to keep the games going.
If we weren’t fully aware a few weeks ago, we now know the societal restrictions necessary not to overwhelm hospitals like has happened in Italy. With it, we know the economic and societal impacts these restrictions have. In North America, professional sports followed the lead of the National Basketball Association, but that postponement only happened due to an actual case of the virus involving a player. Without that push, it’s worth asking how long the leagues would have kept the games on the schedule.
Just the anecdotal evidence makes the risk of spreading the virus through large groups of people obvious at this point. The reduction in acceptable numbers for groups of people in response to that risk should make it clear that there doesn’t seem to be a safe or reasonable way to restart pro sports schedules in Europe or North America. With leagues like Major League Soccer and others following guidelines and suspending along with those recommendations, La Liga’s response should resonate. Make it explicitly a government decision, setting aside any pressure from soccer organization to restart their businesses sooner than necessary. The risk simply isn’t worth it.
SI.com’s Brian Straus talks to USMNT and Besiktas forward Tyler Boyd about playing in empty stadiums. American Soccer Now’s Brian Sciaretta interviews VfB Stuttgart coach Pellegrino Matazarro. BBC Sport’s Will Unwin profiles Wolverhampton manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
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