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Italian Minister of Sport Vincenzo Spadafora: ‘It is uncertain when Serie A will start again’

Serie A teams won’t be able to start training until May 18th. A clarification of the sports minister’s words and how the league will eventually resume.

Social Football Summit 2019 Photo by Stefano Montesi - Corbis/ Getty Images

Everything’s canceled!

Well, maybe not. Just as governments and societies across the world continue to find a way to return to business as usual and to let people leave the house again, so does Serie A struggle to find a way to begin again. Recent reports suggest that the league may be on its way to restarting the season. However, there is some confusion as to how they will go about this.

Perhaps it was due to a rush of excitement, or just a rush of blood to the head, but several media outlets were quick to pull the trigger and report that Serie A teams will begin training again on May 4th. They were also, unfortunately, misinformed about this.

Maybe this was the result of a few words that were lost in translation. It wouldn’t be surprising, considering the fact that this is the type of thing that happens quite often.

(Indeed)

So, in an attempt to dispel the misinformation, this post will hopefully provide clarity on the FIGC’s stance on the matter.

(Or at least, I’ll try to. Now please, be nice to me, or else I’ll show you the back of my hand.)

What did Vincenzo Spadafora actually say?

From an interview that Spadafora gave to Che tempo che fa:

“Starting on May 4, you can work out in the parks, but you must respect social distancing. As for individual training, it will be allowed starting on May 4 and it will mainly concern national and amateur athletes of sports such as swimming, horse riding, tennis, and athletics. Training for team sports will instead, be allowed again on May 18th. Yesterday, we spoke with the FIGC about the security protocols and they will have to be even tighter. If the championship is to resume, it will only do so in a safe manner, because if there is a new player who tests positive [for the coronavirus] in Serie A, then the championship will have to be shut down again. All sports will have to resume in the safest manner.”

And from Calcio e Finanza:

“[...] From May 4th, there will be a green light for individual sports [to start training again], but not for individual training. For team sports, we will have to wait. Will we be able to resume [training] on May 18th with the team sports? We will see, but we will have to gradually work into the next few stages because we can’t take anything for granted.”

So, what does this mean? It means that teams will not be allowed to resume individually training their players on May 4th. Rather, they will have to wait until May 18th to resume any group activities.

Who will be allowed to train on May 4th?

As per the sports ministry’s decree, sports that are considered ‘individual’ disciplines will be allowed to resume training on that date.

So, athletes of sports like swimming, athletics, tennis, and equestrian sports will be allowed to start training again.

Team sports like football will have to wait. Technically, the athletes are currently training on their own, as most of them are training with the individual regimens that have been given to them by their teams. They are also doing so from the comfort of their own homes. They will not, however, be allowed to train as a group until they are given the green light by the government to do so.

When will the Serie A teams resume training?

The FIGC is aiming for the date of May 18th. There is, however, a question mark over that start date. There will be a variety of factors that will determine whether or not teams can resume training by then.

Chief among them is whether or not it’s safe for them to be in groups again. The coronavirus crisis seems to have peaked in Italy. On April 26th, the country recorded 260 deaths, the lowest since March (The Independent). It could be a sign that the country is ready to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic.

However, all factors will need to be assessed before teams are allowed to start training in groups again.

‘The resumption of training does not mean the resumption of the championship.’

So said Mr. Spadafora to the television program Omnibus (La 7). He also went on to say that he expected a ‘surprise’ within the upcoming days, in that the owners of the Serie A teams will ask the government to stop the current championship. He also said that the teams should ‘prepare for next season’ instead of focusing on completing the current season.

What are the obstacles to restarting the season again?

There are plenty. They range from extending the players’ expiring contracts and loans (in order to finish the season), to enforcing social distancing, conducting COVID-19 tests, sanitizing the facilities, then recalling the players who are currently abroad.

The players who are returning from abroad will also have to be placed in a 14-day quarantine before they’re allowed to resume training with their teammates.

All of these things cost a lot of money. They could also place an added financial burden on teams who are already struggling in the midst of this crisis. The FIGC will, no doubt, have to step in and give them assistance.

There is also the issue of approving the medical protocols needed for the resumption of play. The protocols are a set of guidelines that were created by the FIGC as a way of allowing the players to safely resume play (and to them keep safe as well). However, not everyone approves of them. Vincenzo Spadafora (the protagonist of this piece here), has said that the federation’s provisions were ‘insufficient’.

The issue with the FIGC’s protocols was that they weren’t strict enough and that the government will need ‘more information’ on them, before giving them approval.

Currently, the only teams that have approved of these provisions are Juventus, Genoa, and Lazio. The rest of the teams are still waiting for more details about them before they give them their approval.

Gabriele Gravina, the president of the FIGC, has said that the federation is willing to implement the suggestions put forth by the Scientific and Technical Committee.

The federation will need to have those guidelines approved by the government, in order for the leagues to resume play. And if they don’t get approval by May 18th, then it means we could see a delay in the resumption of training, as well as the start of the season.

Is there really a conspiracy against Serie A and football in Italy?

Only if you believe the moon is made out of green cheese. And anyone with any semblance of intelligence knows that it’s actually made out of gorgonzola.

While the likes Marco Parolo and the AIC might not like the fact that the ‘individual sports’ were allowed to resume training first, for now, they will just have to learn to live with it.

However, the Italian government’s decision not to let the teams resume play does seem quite bizarre. Italy was expected to follow Spain and let players resume training on an individual basis. Instead, they did the complete opposite and only let ‘individual’ sports resume training.

The move is being widely criticized, and seen as putting the players health in jeopardy. It’s also being viewed as a power play as well.

The government’s argument for this seems to hinge on the fact that football is a contact sport. The virus is spread through close contact with individuals. We saw this when Valencia took on Atalanta in the Champions League, where a few of the Spanish team’s fans contracted the virus and then brought it back home with them to Spain.

The result was a ‘biological bomb’ that exploded right in the heart of central Spain. To date, Spain has 220,000 cases of the virus, along with 23,521 confirmed deaths. Spain is now right behind Italy, in terms of the number of fatalities in Europe.

With this in mind, allowing the ‘individual’ sports to resume training first is understandable. If the provisional training with the athletes on an individual basis goes well, then it means that team sports will be able to follow suit.

This gradual resumption of team training is also being done to prevent the spread of the virus among individuals who work in close proximity together.

The argument made by Parolo and others is that it’s ‘safer’ to train in a sanitized football facility than an open park. What they fail to realize though, is that the proper protocols will need to be in place before they can resume training at those facilities again (see above).

Football players are already training solo at home. They’ll just have to wait a little while longer before they can begin training with their teammates on the training grounds again.

What about Serie A Femminile?

Serie A Femminile is usually left out of the discussion when it comes to the repercussions of the pandemic on football in Italy. The omission is understandable, given the great amount of attention (and money) that men’s Serie A both commands and generates.

Though at the moment, football, in general, is just secondary to everything else that’s going on. Whatever happens to the sport should be viewed as a consequence of the crisis, and should not take precedence over every other industry that has been hurt by the pandemic.

However, the omission of Serie A Femminile from the public discussion about this is also quite unfortunate.

It is important to keep in mind that the athletes of the league are amateurs, and most of them barely make enough money to survive. Most of them don’t have any form of insurance to fall back on either.*

The pandemic has, unfortunately, hurt nearly everyone, but the crisis has hit the league’s players particularly hard.

Since both Serie A and Serie A Femminile are pretty much intertwined, it’s safe to assume that the women’s championship will follow the same timeline, in terms of the resumption of the league. If the men’s teams start training on May 18th, the women will do so alongside them.

Most of the teams of Serie A Femminile will not only need financial assistance for their players, but they’ll need help to resume training as well. More importantly, they will need help to restart the season again.

As per Tuttomercatoweb, it will cost between €120,000 to €180,000 for all of the testing, sanitization, and all of the other protocols that will need to be implemented, in order to resume play. Many of the teams in the league simply can’t afford this. Pink Bari’s president, Alessandra Signorile, even went as far as to say that her team ‘risks extinction’ unless they receive outside assistance.

UEFA has confirmed that it will be giving each of its member associations €4.3 million in order to assist with the ongoing crisis. The FIGC will have to allocate some of that money to the women’s teams in order to keep them alive.

As a follow-up to this post, I’ll also write another piece that will specifically focus on how the crisis will affect the league. Serie A Femminile deserves its own discussion on the matter, and it deserves more attention and detail than what I can give it here.

*(The Rossonere are the only exception, as AC Milan is the only team that is confirmed to pay pensions for their women’s team.)

In Conclusion

So, there you have it. All the things she said (running through my head).

Hopefully, by now, you’ll be able to better understand the situation better. Here’s to also hoping that we’ll have definitive dates for the resumption of training the start of the league again.

Serie A will lose a lot of money if the season doesn’t resume again. However, the proper authorities will have to be smart about how they let the league resume play. After all, it will take only one player testing positive to suspend the season (again). And the potential loss of revenue doesn’t compare to all of the lives that have been lost and could be lost as a result of this pandemic.

All we can do now is ask you to stay tuned, as more will be posted about this situation in the near future.