By Neil Leverett
- European clubs begin to the count cost of ongoing coronavirus pandemic
- Pressure beginning to mount on leagues to find solutions, including an enforced resumption of play behind closed doors
- Bundesliga could resume in next fortnight amid strict guidelines
PREMIER LEAGUE – As clubs across the continent feel the pinch during the coronavirus crisis, is football’s hand set to be forced as mounting financial pressures grow across Europe?
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Europe eyes resumption
As Europe approaches the end of a third month of coronavirus’ ‘Sword of Damocles’ lingering above its’ head, the sporting world continues to hold its’ collective breath – both literally and metaphorically – with no clear sign of an end to the pandemic in sight.
From a footballing point of view, Nicaragua, Belarus, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Taiwan stand the only remaining countries seeing competitive action – for differing socio-economic reasons – but as we approach May, there is finally indication that a resumption of play across the continent is drawing nearer.
Such has been the devastating impact on the world not just from a health point of view, global finances have been clobbered already and with warnings of catastrophic effects from a long-term perspective, tough questions are having to be posed and indeed answered across the board.
As stadiums and sports facilities have been transformed into makeshift COVID|-19 testing centres in the past weeks, there is however now a chink of light at the end of the tunnel, but will the vast amounts of money in the game – and the huge sums being lost to the pandemic – prove to be a risk too far in resuming play?
Transfer market threatened
Although for the time being competitive action should perhaps be the last priority on the list, when games do return the landscape of football globally will likely change for the foreseeable future – not least across Europe’s top leagues.
Keeping many of the continent’s clubs afloat will require a vast financial rescue package, and a big part of that will also come through the significant slashing of player wages.
It’s worth considering that only three months ago the end of winter transfer window saw many millions change hands, but the reality after the pandemic is brought under control – whenever that may be – will surely mean the salubrious wage and accompanied player power is set to beckoned to one side.
In a time that has seen many hundreds of thousands lose their lives and many millions more be plunged into hardship across the globe, there is surely little appetite to indulge the best players in the world still with incomes of over a £1 million per month.
Finances could force call
Whilst Holland’s Eredivisie become the second European league to cancel their season this past Friday – following suit from their low country neighbour Belgium’s early call to scrap the campaign last month – German football conversely, are looking to be the pioneers in the attempt to resume something close to normal life, with the DFB considering a return to action within weeks.
Though Germany has been one of the most successful nations on the globe to deal with COVID-19, the past week has seen the infection rate rise in the country.
Bundesliga boss Christian Seifert openly stated earlier this month that the top two tiers could play behind closed doors. As reported in Forbes, Seifert’s words could now come to a fruition, with the goal of early next month seeing games return to the calendar.
Indeed, that appears the be the wish for the majority of clubs, with reports that as many as 13 of the 36 clubs in both the Bundesliga and Bundesliga Zwei could face financial insolvency should the season not resume before June.
Players from their respective clubs have been training in small groups for the past two weeks across Germany, and as such a swift turnaround from a decision should see no issues with preparation. But there are obviously grander considerations, not least the further spread of infection.
And the picture in Germany could begin to mirror that of Serie A, La Liga and even the Premier League, with the futures of every league across the continent having been plunged into great uncertainty in such unprecedented times – with one English top flight giant rumoured to be facing huge financial problems should a remedy to the situation not be found, as reported by the Daily Mirror.
As the tally of deaths from COVID-19 globally passes the 200,000 mark, the infection curve now at least appears to levelling, and in some countries now dropping off. However, the next stage of what is set be a battle for the remainder of the year comes in keeping the numbers down with the prevention of a second wave.
Sport in particular is keenly aware the role is has to play in stopping another spike in numbers, before a vacccine comes along. With said onus alas comes the consideration that global economies themselves requires quite the shot in the arm, and football’s hand is being forced into action.
Italy – a country devastated by the pandemic – on Monday released plans for players to resume individual training next week, with group training a fortnight after. Spain however are not likely to even consider this approach until well into May, and the Premier League is likely to fall into that bracket also.
Bundesliga plans for a swift resumption require the green light from Chancellor Angela Merkel later this week, but with the German leader uniquely aware herself of the need to to balance health with the long-term future of the nation, could give the nod.
If amber flicks to green, the process then begins to ramp up testing for players and put in place preparations including the use of masks to use for players, and the prerequisite of squads to move away from the their families for the remainder of the nine-game fixture list, so as to prevent any infection spreading.
Such precautions now seem common place for the era at the beginning of this new decade, but the eyes of the world will be looking for precedent even in the most unprecedented of times. The eyes of the world are on Germany once more this week.
Follow Britwatch Sports for the latest on the global sporting battle against coronavirus.
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