Friday's soccer news starts with the German government postponing the Bundesliga's restart by at least a week. German soccer planned on resuming its top two divisions on May 9, with clubs already in their second week of practice sessions. That's with social distancing somewhat in place, as they try to figure out the best way back to actual games. That plan needed government approval at regional and national levels.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has now set a May 6 date for those authorities to decide if and when pro soccer might resume. That could be as early as the middle of May, but not the timeline the Bundesliga set out when their clubs returned to practice. Now, it's at least another week of those practices with a soccer-specific version of social distancing in place. How long that lasts before it seems unnecessary is another part of the scenario.
As was the situation in the Netherlands and France, it's governments ultimately in control rather than soccer. Some French clubs may be considering litigating their position that the government lacks full authority, but that's not likely to hold sway in the short term. In the midst of a global pandemic, soccer becomes a part of a broader discussion. Though sports might help a return to normalcy, the quick return would be anything but normal.
Closed door games and an abbreviated schedule is a bad answer to what was an unimaginable problem. Most tend to agree with that, even if it's the best answer. It changes the scope of the season after a long unplanned layoff and potentially puts the health of all involved at risk. With that in mind, soccer's self-imposed deadlines and plans to restart may be getting in their own way. Instead of planning somewhat in public, perhaps they should wait for government decisions one way or the other. No leaks of very important meetings that only involve soccer people. No preemptive announcements that solely involve what soccer authorities think that they can control.
Instead, soccer should be waiting along with everybody else. That includes the entertainment industry of which sports business is a sub-category. Most fans have already worked out for themselves that the primary driver for the big leagues returning to work is the attempt to satisfy broadcast and sponsorship deals. Whether or not broadcasters and sponsors would consider that satisfactory is another question, but the leagues are looking to satisfy the letter of their contracts. That's not necessarily the best competitive decision, once again bringing up UEFA's concept of "sporting merit." Europe's governing body is right there with the domestic leagues trying to find a way to complete its Champions League for similar reasons.
What this has created is desperation at the highest level of the club game. It's the same desperation as restaurants, theaters, touring musicians, conventions, and every other business that relies on people showing up in groups and maintaining close proximity for an extended period of time. That closeness issue still counts when it's the people necessary to conduct a closed door game of professional soccer.
AP's Rob Harris goes over the various plans to restart leagues in Europe. The Washington Post's Rick Maese does the same for North American pro sports. Inside World Football's Andrew Warshaw with FIFA and UEFA medical officials not agreeing on safe resumption of games. The Independent's Julien Pretot and Shrivathsa Sridhar report on Ligue 1 club Lyon's plan to sue over missing out on a Europa League spot. The Guardian's David Hytner on England's Championship wanting its promotion playoffs regardless of whether or not the season finishes.
At a meeting of Shareholders, clubs discussed possible steps to resume the 2019/20 season— Premier League (@premierleague) May 1, 2020
The League and clubs will only return to training and playing with Government guidance, under expert advice and after consultation with players and managers
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