In a scintillating announcement on Saturday, the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the Spanish la liga has the “all-clear” to resume games in the second week of June.
“The resumption of major professional sporting competitions and, in particular, La Liga will be allowed from the week of June, 8,” Sanchez announced in a televised address.
The announcement brings to an end, speculations, anxieties and the boredom that have emanated from the suspension of the league back in March.
The future of the remaining parts of the leagues across Europe has been a subject of interest since the COVID-19 pandemic brought sports activities to a halt in the continent. The league bodies have sought ways to keep the games on or bring them back as soon as possible to save clubs from severe economic downturns.
FC Barcelona is among the Spanish clubs severely hit by the global health crisis. Having a financial responsibility of 500 million euros wage bill per annum (the highest in Europe), the Catalan giants have been desperately looking for fund to upset the bill of players’ salaries before the end of June.
In March, the players had voluntarily agreed to wage cuts so that other staff of the club could be paid. Lionel Messi and other team members took 70% pay cut to stem the financial burden on the club.
With the La Liga ready to resume next month, there is hope that Barcelona and others could live up to its financial obligations, though there are still challenges.
La Liga president Javier Tebas didn’t hide his excitement that the restriction has been lifted, but he said there is need for continuous vigilance.
“We are very happy for the decision, it is the result of the great work of clubs, players, technicians… CSD (National Sports Council) and agents involved,” he wrote on Twitter. “But we cannot lower our guard, it is important to follow health regulations and ensure the pandemic doesn’t come back.”
Barcelona has a slight 2-point lead over Real Madrid to stay at the top of the table. With 11 rounds of the fixtures remaining, the league is still open, making its completion compulsory.
However, the reopening of the stadium has come with a price. The remaining games are going to be played behind closed doors under strict precautionary conditions. The players will undergo tests for coronavirus the day before games and will have their temperature checked before they’re allowed to go into the stadium. Only 197 persons including coaching staff and match crew are allowed in the stadium.
German Bundesliga has last week resumed the league games, being the first among Europe’s top-five leagues to play matches. The Italian Serie A and the English Premier League are still working to resume on later dates.
Spain is one of the most hit countries by the coronavirus pandemic with more than 28,000 deaths from over 234,000 cases, which crippled sports activities that is a major part of the country’s economy. Tebas said the cancellation of matches would have cost Spanish clubs about a billion dollars in revenues.
The second-flight Segunda Division is also set to resume games with the Primera liga. The Spanish football federation is hoping to end all domestic games in July to give room for European competitions. So the clubs will play through midweek and weekends to finish the remaining games.
La Liga players had earlier last week resumed training, signaling readiness to resume matches.
However, against the excitement of resumption lies the realities of financial loss that will come from empty stadia. Every one of the teams is going through financial difficulties that need parked stadia to stem. With the indoor rule, fans will be watching from home and that means ticket sales will remain on hold until further notice.
But the league body appears not to be so concerned about that. Safety has been the focal point of the agreement between the health authorities and Spanish Football Federation. The numbers of players to grace the pitch for training has been cautiously reduced to 10, in order to observe the social distancing rules.
Tebas believes that the arrangement will not pose any danger to the matches since necessary safety measures have been put in place.
“That’s what I hope. We shouldn’t have any problems playing on Mondays across the eleven rounds of matches left to play. I hope for some sense from the Spanish Football Federation on this, because it’s very important for us to be able to give both our national and international broadcasters and fans across the world, football on as many days as possible to ensure as little disruption as possible,” he said.