European soccer remains in Covid-19 limbo

Sports Desk, Apr 29 (efe-epa).- The head of the group representing Europe’s professional soccer leagues said Wednesday that stakeholders still hope to complete the pandemic-interrupted 2019-2020 season, but the leader of the players union warned against resuming play too quickly.

“In Europe most want to finish the season if it’s possible,” European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson said during a webinar organized by SIGA/Soccerex.

“There are leagues where they are about to end the season and there are opportunities where clubs can enter competitions according to sporting principle not by a decision taken in someone’s office,” he said after rebuking FIFA’s chief medical officer, Michel D’Hooghe, for saying that soccer should not return until September.

“The head of the FIFA medical committee needs to keep his advice to himself. He has no idea what’s happening in each country – he does not have the complete data,” Olsson said.

D’Hooghe voiced his concerns Tuesday in an interview with Sky Sports News.

“If there is one moment where absolute priority should be given to medical matters, then it is this one. This is not a matter of money but of life and death,” the FIFA official said.

Olsson said that D’Hooghe should have realized that his views would be “perceived not as the opinion of a private person, but as a representative of FIFA.”

A day after the French government effectively canceled the 2019-2020 Ligue 1 season by barring sporting events until September, the standard-bearer for the European Leagues stressed the importance of completing the current campaign if possible.

He added, however, that if push came to shove, he would rather sacrifice the balance of this season than see the start of the 2020-2021 season put in jeopardy.

Also taking part in the webinar was Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, leader of FIFPRO, the global union of professional footballers.

He said that union members were wary of returning to competition without assurances on health and safety.

“There are real worries about infection risks. There are worries about what that means for their families and friends that they engage with. They are worried very much that they represent something in society that might give a bad influence,” Baer-Hoffmann said.

“The worst thing would be to return too quickly and fail because the virus has not disappeared. Then we would have to stop again and not come back for even longer, when we should have waited,” the FIFPRO chief said.

In France, the Professional Football League (LFP) convened an emergency meeting Wednesday to craft a strategy in the wake of the government’s decision to put sporting events on hold until September.

“The priority is the economic survival of the clubs,” Saint-Etienne president Bernard Caïazzo told Efe. “They have told us we won’t be able to play, but now they have to guarantee assistance. They are depriving us of income and we don’t know what will happen with costs.”

The LFP estimates that the cancelation will cost clubs a total of 650 million euros ($707 million) in lost revenues from broadcast rights, ticket sales and payments from sponsors.

The presidents of several Ligue 1 clubs vying for berths in the 2020-2021 Champions League said they were not prepared to write off the current season.

One of the most outspoken club bosses in that regard is Lyon’s Jean-Michel Aulas, whose team is currently seventh in Ligue 1 – out of the Champions League places.

When play was halted by the pandemic, Lyon were hopeful of advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2019-2020 Champions completion after besting Juventus 1-0 in the first leg of their knockout stage tie.

Caïazzo, who is president of the association of Ligue 1 clubs, dismissed the complaints from Aulas and other executives.

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