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League-by-league guide to European football’s coronavirus shutdown

Harvey Barnes (C) scored the last goal in the Premier League on March 9 before it was put on hold due to the coronavirus crisis © AFP/File / Paul ELLIS

PARIS, France, Apr 19 – Football leagues across Europe have been suspended since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic which has claimed over 100,000 lives throughout the continent.

Lockdown restrictions are in effect worldwide although some countries are cautiously beginning to ease stay-at-home orders.

AFP Sport looks at what we know about possible restart plans for Europe’s top leagues:

ENGLAND

The Premier League said that wrapping up the remaining 92 fixtures remains their goal, but the ongoing COVID-19 crisis means no fixed schedule can be drawn up yet.

With most clubs having nine games left, it was reported that Friday’s meeting of the 20 clubs discussed finishing the season in a 40-day window.

There have been claims that clubs were told domestic seasons must end by July 31 and the 2020-21 campaign must start by the first week of September at the latest.

The UK’s lockdown is in place until May 7 at the earliest.

There is a general acceptance among clubs that matches will be played behind closed doors if the competition can resume, with restrictions on mass gatherings likely to remain in force for the foreseeable future.

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A Premier League statement said a number of complex scenarios were being worked through, with fears that failure to finish the season could cost it more than £1 billion ($1.2 billion).

SPAIN

Lionel Messi is La Liga’s leading scorer this season with 19 goals © AFP/File / LLUIS GENE

La Liga chief Javier Tebas last week said play could restart as early as next month, although a two-week extension of the nationwide lockdown until May 9 announced Saturday appears to have scuppered those plans.

Tebas said no team training could take place until after the state of emergency ends in Spain, but he was adamant “it is not an option” to cancel the season given the massive hit to revenue Spain’s top clubs would have to absorb. He estimated cancellation would cost teams around a billion euros ($1.08 billion).

May 28-29, June 6-7 and June 28-29 were the three dates Tebas cited for a potential return to competition.

Fixtures are expected to be held behind closed doors initially, with some clubs facing the prospect of playing away from their own grounds due to scheduled building work.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has proposed using the current standings to decide which teams qualify for Europe if the season is scrapped. La Liga and UEFA have not given their approval to the plan.

ITALY

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said club matches could resume “in late May, early June”, saying those advocating cancellation of the season “do not like football, or Italians”.

Juventus beat Inter Milan 2-0 behind closed doors on March 8 © AFP/File / Vincenzo PINTO

The president of the FIGC, Gabriele Gravina, said it would take three weeks to prepare after the end of the coronavirus lockdown in the country, currently scheduled for May 4.

“There will be a monitoring period to guarantee that all those taking part are free of the virus. If they are all negative, there is no problem of distancing or contagion,” said Gravina.

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However, the head of infectious diseases at Italy’s National Institute of Health has warned against restarting the league next month.

According to the Italian media, Brescia and Torino are the last two clubs to openly oppose the resumption of the league.

Twelve rounds of matches remain with another eight postponed games to be played as well, leaving the prospect of finishing the season in late July.

GERMANY

The German Football League (DFL) will hold a video conference on April 23 with the 36 clubs in the top two divisions to discuss whether matches can resume in early May, albeit without fans.

Players at German clubs returned to training last week with strict social distancing measures © AFP/File / Christof STACHE

Players have returned to training while adhering to social distancing guidelines, and if health authorities give the go-ahead, the Bundesliga could be the first top European league to resume. But a debate is raging as to whether there will be enough testing available for the coronavirus to keep players safe.

Large-scale public events have been banned in Germany until August 31, but one proposal is for games to be played behind closed doors without spectators, with clubs testing their players, coaches and backroom staff every three to four days.

Only those players or staff who test positive for the coronavirus would be quarantined — not entire teams — with the league hoping the season can be completed by June 30.

The date is important as it would secure around 300 million euros ($326 million) from television deals alone, which could reportedly save some clubs from insolvency.

FRANCE

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Neymar and PSG are 12 points clear of Marseille in Ligue 1 © GETTY/UEFA/AFP/File / Alexandre Simoes

Clubs are making plans to resume playing and finish the current season by late July despite an extension of the country’s coronavirus lockdown until May 11.

Teams will not be able to train before the lockdown ends, but the best-case scenario would see matches resuming in June behind closed doors.

There seems little prospect of fans being allowed into stadiums any time soon with the government ruling out any large gatherings before mid-July.

The French league (LFP) is targeting starting next season on August 23 but remains intent on completing the current campaign first. There are 10 rounds of games remaining in Ligue 1.

One LFP official says the “favoured scenario” would see the season resuming on June 17, with teams playing twice a week until July 25.

Clubs are desperate to ensure next season starts with as little disruption as possible, especially as a lucrative TV deal with Spanish group Mediapro is set to kick in worth a record 1.15 billion euros ($1.26 billion) a year.

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