The ongoing coronavirus crisis has brought football, and much of the world in general, to a standstill.
While much has been said about the impact of the crisis on the men’s Serie A, hardly anything has been said about how it will affect Serie A Femminile. More importantly, hardly anything has been said about how it will affect the women of the league. (At least, not in the English-speaking media.)
In an attempt to bring attention to how the crisis will affect the league, I will be writing a series of articles that will examine the impact that the crisis will have on both the league and its players.
This is the first in a series of posts that will be devoted to the issue. This series will also be done in collaboration with Lucia Pirola of Radio Rossonera. This piece will be the first article in the series, and it is a translation of the original article that she wrote on the matter.
Coronavirus: recoveries and priorities. What will happen to Serie A Femminile?
The date of March 24th, 2020, was an unintentionally remarkable day. For it was the day that marked an entire month since the last game of Serie A Femminile had been played.
During the dates of February 22nd - 23rd, most of the games that were scheduled for that weekend were played without any problems. That is, until that Saturday when everything changed.
The Milan - Fiorentina game, which was scheduled for that day [February 23rd], was suspended, this despite the fact that the girls from Florence had already arrived in Milan. The seriousness of the situation, along with the dark clouds that were approaching the entire region of Lombardy, made the decision inevitable. From that moment on, women’s football in Italy temporarily shifted their focus to Portugal, with the Azzurre playing for the Algarve Cup.
Unfortunately, the situation there also ran head-on into the aforementioned dark clouds, so the final between Italy and Germany was never played.
Instead, the Azzurre would make a weary journey back home.
Let’s jump forward to today: the men’s Euros have been postponed, the Olympic Games have been postponed, and every major event that was scheduled before September was postponed until further notice.
An important question then entered the minds of the sporting directors, athletes, and supporters: what do we do with a season that has been interrupted without notice? How can it be redeemed without altering their premises rather drastically? How can we conclude the championships and determine the cup winners with dignity?
Such thoughts are naturally valid for all the sports that had been interrupted [two months ago], but the crux of the public discussions and the authorities’ agendas, will mainly be centered on men’s Serie A, which is the driving engine [of Italian football], not only economically, but socially as well.
The specific gravity that is given to the fate of these certain groups, which are rightfully considered, given the bigger audience [they command], is in contrast with the real needs of all those individuals who receive considerably less attention. And women’s football is one of them.
The “making sense” of the needs of women’s football is easily comparable to that of men’s football: to conclude the championship, to declare a winner, to decide which teams will be relegated, and who will have access to the Champions League.
In addition to this, there is also the matter of playing the remaining qualification matches for the women’s Euros. The Euros were originally scheduled for 2021. But in this instance as well, once the 2020 men’s Euros were officially postponed, we found ourselves back under the clouds of uncertainty and wondering, “What will become of the following ones [tournaments]?”
Women’s football demands and deserves special attention, since we are dealing with a young and fragile ecosystem that is still in development, and that is not able to exist on its own. Not to mention that it is supported and driven by fewer resources than that of the men’s Serie A teams.
We welcome the idea of concluding the championships in the summer, but it will also depend on whether or not all the expiring contracts will be prolonged until June*. But can this solution actually be implemented with the current economic agreements in Serie A Femminile [re: the players and their contracts with their teams]? And if so, will all the teams be able to afford such a contingency?
If it seems quite difficult to think of a painless way to modify the economic agreements ― which we think are wrongfully called ‘contracts’. The situation is even more complicated if we think about residency permits for the non-EU players, or the situation of other foreign players, who are committed to going back to their home countries.
Certainly, there is a lot of confusion, and it makes sense if we think about our country’s [Italy] real priorities right now, which is far from the fates of sport and football. But we trust, rightfully or not, that careful consideration will be given to all of the different circumstances involved here.
*Note: Serie A Femminile ‘contracts’ tend to be short and last only a year, and they expire once the season ends. The season was originally set to end in May. Now, with the current COVID-19 crisis, it is uncertain when the current season will in fact end. So, in order to finish the season properly, the contracts of the players need to be extended until the season officially ends.
FIFA agrees with this assertion. They have also confirmed that the ‘major stakeholders’ have agreed to extend the expiring players’ contracts until the season ends.
The reality on the ground, however, is much more different. Not all of the teams can afford to extend their players’ contracts, and some have sent their foreign players back home already.
This, along with many other issues, will be discussed in further detail in the subsequent articles in this series.