The lockdown currently in force has seen football cancelled in just about every country around Europe. Fans are now keen to find out when they can watch some action again, while many clubs are suffering due to a lack of income.
Some of the most interesting proposals for getting these leagues up and running again include playing behind closed doors, players training in small groups, and making matches shorter. So, when can we realistically expect to see the top leagues back in action?
In England, recent reports suggest that football authorities have been holding constructive meetings with the government to find a way forward. It seems likely that the next games we see from the UK will take place behind closed doors at neutral venues.
June 12 is the date that has been pencilled in for the first games after this enforced break. The head of the player’s union, Gordon Taylor, pointed out that one of the ideas they are considering is that of playing shorter games to fit in a busier schedule that brings them up to date quickly.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, runaway leaders Liverpool were showing signs of creaking but still had a big enough lead to make the league title virtually certain. Of course, most other sports have been affected in the same way as football, both in England and elsewhere.
Rafa Nadal recently pointed out that he isn’t sure when tennis will be back. Other events have been re-scheduled. For example, you can find the Kentucky Derby best bets for the race in September rather than May this year.
It seems likely that Germany will be the first European country to start playing top-level football this year. At the time of writing, the Bundesliga has recently received permission from the government to get back to playing.
This is expected to happen in the second half of May, with the league having ground to a halt on March 13 with just nine matches left and Bayern Munich enjoying a small lead.
Germany’s aggressive approach to testing has allowed them to achieve a low mortality rate and their football players have been training in smaller groups over the last few weeks.
Spain has suffered more than most countries during this crisis. Despite the high number of infections in the population, La Liga has recently been given the green light to get back to training in the next week.
It is then expected that the top two divisions will be ready to start playing again by the middle of June. Teams in the level below this are expected to play a rapid set of play-offs to decide promotion. As part of the process, players will be tested and facilities disinfected.
The government believes that the return of football will be seen as an encouraging sign of life getting back to normal. This was one of the most tightly-contested leagues at the start of the lockdown, with Barcelona just a couple of points ahead of Real Madrid.
In Italy, the government has given its blessing to their clubs’ return to training this week. This has been brought forward from the planned date of May 18, meaning that it now ties in with the return of individual athletes rather than with the return of team sports.
The country’s interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, confirmed that training grounds can be used as long as social distancing measures are put in place.
It is unclear when Serie A will resume and whether the current season will ever be completed. At the time of the interruption, Juventus were sitting in the top spot but were just a point clear of Lazio.