La Liga's plan to restart gets boost as government outlines easing of lockdown restrictions

La Liga president Javier Tebas.
La Liga president Javier Tebas. / EFE
  • Players still have concerns about their safety, however, as the Health ministry blocked the planned testing ahead of the return to training

The plan outlined by La Liga, the RFEF and the Ministry of Sport to resume professional football in Spain, as reported in SUR in English last week, received a boost on Tuesday when prime minister Pedro Sánchez outlined Spain's path towards the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

It was announced that federated and professional athletes would be able to return to training on an individual basis from next Monday, 4 May, with high performance facilities set to reopen a fortnight later.

While the French league on Tuesday joined their Dutch and Belgian counterparts in declaring the season over, the rest of the five major leagues (Spain, Germany, Italy and England) are still optimistic that the 2019-20 season can be completed.

Delay in testing

One major obstacle that La Liga must still overcome is that of testing. A key pillar of the plan to resume Spanish football was ensuring players received coronavirus tests before being allowed to rejoin group sessions.

These tests, according to the plan, were supposed to be administered on Tuesday - a move that was blocked by the Ministry of Health. Health minister Salvador Illa said on Sunday that his ministry was against mass testing of asymptomatic people and that tests would only be issued according to medical need, under the guidelines established by the regional Health authorities.

"I cannot say whether football will return before the summer," he said.

"This does not change anything," according to La Liga chief Javier Tebas, who believes that this represents a delay for the plan, rather than an end to it.

Tebas stressed the importance of football as "an important economic powerhouse", representing 1.37 per cent of the country's GDP and employing around 185,000 people in Spain. "If important economic sectors cannot be restarted, in a safe and controlled way, they could end up disappearing," he warned on Tuesday. "In other countries, teams are already training. That's the example to follow."

Safety fears

This viewpoint has been challenged, however, by the Federation of Shareholders and Partners of Spanish Football (Fasfe) which warned again doing "crazy things" by restarting the league.

"The economic reasons [losses estimated to be around one billion euros] given for the hasty resumption of football does not, we believe, hold water. There are sectors that are much more relevant to the economy of our country, tourism for example, that are stopped for health reasons and no one in their right mind can think of restarting their activity," the organisation says.

With the question of testing in the spotlight, it rejects "any project to restart the competition by exposing participants to illness, using medical resources that are essential in other sectors such as health professionals."

Against the clock

UEFA this week, for the first time, opened the door to the possible cancellation of its leagues, giving its members until 27 May to come up with an action plan that will allow them to conclude the current campaign.

If viable plans are not submitted in time, the season will have to be cancelled and champions, relegation spots and European qualification would have to be decided "on sporting merit" by the individual federations.

It is understood that current league position, projected totals based on points-per-game ratio and the table at the midway point of the season could all be used to make the calculations.

The Spanish Football Federation (FEF) announced last week the mechanism it would apply. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla and Real Sociedad (currently in first to fourth spots) would be in next season's Champions League if the season doesn't restart, while the Europa League places would go to Getafe and Atlético de Madrid (currently in fifth and sixth).

The third spot, it said, would depend on the result of the final of the Copa del Rey. The match between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad has been postponed.