From Serie A to Bundesliga, leagues in Europe face similar challenges and uncertainties

Stakes are high as officials try to navigate through crisis and salvage season

epa08300485 (FILE) - General view of the Stadio Olimpico prior to the Italian Serie A soccer match between SS Lazio and Hellas Verona in Rome, Italy, 11 February 2016 (re-issued on 17 March 2020). The UEFA EURO 2020 has been postponed to 2021 amid the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the Norwegian Football Association (NFF) announced on 17 March 2020.  EPA/CLAUDIO PERI *** Local Caption *** 53943304
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The major leagues of Europe have welcomed Uefa’s decision to postpone Euro 2020, freeing up the month of June for club football to compete its various competitions.

But with so many games still to play, and no clear dates when it might be deemed safe to open up stadiums, there are towering challenges ahead.

SERIE A

In the country with the highest Covid-19 infection rate in Europe, football is no priority. Nor under the current lockdown in Italy, is it easy to imagine the imminent resumption of Serie A with fans travelling the length of the peninsula and to Sardinia. In common with most leagues, Italy would be willing to again stage games behind close doors, and, with Euro 2020 postponed, there is now room to anticipate the most riveting title race for many years, with Lazio and Juventus jostling for a prize Juve have claimed every year since 2011.

The backlog of top-flight matches is bigger than elsewhere: Serie A clubs have 12 or 13 games still to play, and, at a meeting of club executives on Thursday, a plan will be discussed where, if there is positive medical advice, fixtures could resume by the second weekend of May. A later restart date would make it very hard to meet Uefa’s target of closing the club season by the end of June.

Some Italian clubs, unwilling to consider the possibility of settling final league positions via play-offs rather than playing out all the fixtures, will argue that the season could go on into July, and the 2020-21 campaign begin in September. But with the European championship now scheduled for June 2021, the concern is that next season would then become an exhausting ordeal.

LA LIGA

Spain is under emergency laws preventing citizens from leaving their homes except in specific, restricted circumstances. But there is an ambition for the country’s most popular pastime to be up and running in time for the domestic season to be completed by the end of June. In Spain’s top division, which Barcelona lead by two points over Real Madrid, there are 11 games left.

“Anything other than finishing the season would be an injustice,” said Luis Rubiales, head of the Spanish Football Federation, apparently rejecting various proposals for a shortened Liga season, including the idea of using the Primera Division table from the first half of the season – comprising each club’s opening 19 games, all teams having played one another once – as the final table. The head of the league, Javier Tebas, also rejects that.

Otherwise, the league and federation chiefs are at odds, as they tend to be, and there was a familiar public quarrel between the two bodies almost immediately after Uefa had postponed the European championships to allow club competitions some breathing space. The federation’s Rubiales accused the league’s Tebas of misguided priorities, citing, among other things, the federation’s offer to make beds and accommodation at its training headquarters available for public health needs. He urged leading clubs to do the same with their high-spec campuses.

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