Updated 05/01/2020 at 11:58 a.m.
Italian football could give up going to the end of its season, defeated by a pandemic that has killed 28,000 people.
Officially, the football world is opposed to the hypothesis of canceling the season as France did on Thursday evening. The Italian League has managed to display the sacred union of its twenty Serie A clubs, overcoming the reluctance of Torino and Brescia, the red lantern of the championship but also martyrdom of the coronavirus. Friday, the League was to organize a new meeting before a meeting of the federation (FIGC) which could be decisive on May 8. For its part, the Italian government has showered hopes of a rapid recovery, banning training before May 18 at best. With twelve days left to go and UEFA recommending the August deadline, “the path is becoming narrower,” said sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora this week.
FIGC President Gabriele Gravina said he would “never sign for the end of the championships”, which he said was “the death of Italian football”. The federation estimates that Italian football could lose 900 million euros in TV rights, sponsors, ticketing, marketing.
According to the specialized site Calcio e Finanza, a final judgment would directly challenge 400 million euros in TV rights, including a final tranche of 340 million for the current season, which was to be paid in May. A considerable shortfall for a sector which posts a turnover of 4.7 billion euros, according to the federation, employs more than 120,000 people and weighs 0.58% of the GDP, according to the weekly Panorama. But the blow would also be painful for public finances since football pays three billion tax contributions. The hundred professional clubs represent 71% of the taxes paid by the entire sports sector, according to Panorama.
In this context, more than a challenge to the government, the dramatic phrase of Gabriele Gravina can be interpreted as a will to make him take responsibility for a judgment, thus offering arguments if broadcasters and sponsors dare to hand over question their commitments. This week, the president of the League, which represents professional football, Paolo Dal Pino repeated the will of the clubs to leave but only if that is “possible”, “respecting the standards and health protocols”. “Otherwise, we will stick strictly, as we have always done, to government decisions,” he said.
“We would assume”
Political power could grab the ball. The Minister of Sports explained Thursday that if the sanitary conditions for a recovery were not found, “the government will decree (…) the end of the championship” by ensuring that football “suffers as little damage as possible ” In this case, “we would take responsibility for the decision,” he said. The government would have the majority support of an opinion traumatized by the pandemic, in particular in the north, stronghold of heavyweights, Juventus Turin, Inter and AC Milan, Atalanta Bergamo.
According to a recent survey, two out of three Italians would support a stop. If this decision was made, how to settle the season? A “final” between the two leaders, Juventus and Lazio Rome, was mentioned. But according to Corriere Dello Sport, the preferred hypothesis would be an untitled season. The classification established on March 9, after the last match played, would offer qualification for the Champions League for Juve, Lazio, Inter and Atalanta Bergamo. Brescia and SPAL, the Ferrara team, would be relegated. “Difficult to avoid the danger of remedies” including by Serie B clubs vying for accession, “but Gravina intends to continue on this path,” writes Corriere.
Among the major European championships, only the Netherlands and France have definitively stopped their season. The Bundesliga could resume behind closed doors “mid-May or late May”. Training has resumed in Spain but no date for resuming La Liga has been mentioned. The Premier League is working on a recovery project on June 8 in empty stadiums.