Spanish La Liga given green light to restart

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MADRID. — Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has given the green light for football to return in the week beginning June 8, allowing La Liga to go ahead with plans to restart the First Division with the Seville derby on June 12.

A formal announcement on the date of the return to competition will be made by the league’s president, Javier Tebas, in the next couple of days. Sánchez made the announcement on Saturday when he said that the “worst has passed” and that Spain was now at “the end of the tunnel”, allowing for a further relaxing of the state of alarm, which was first declared on March 14 due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.

“The time has come to recover some of the activities that were suspended,” he said. “I want to inform you that, in agreement with the CSD (the sports council) and the ministry of health, the government has given the Spanish professional league the green light to return to playing.

“Spanish football has a massive following both within and beyond our borders, but it will not be the only activity we will get back. Museums, theatres, cinemas and other sporting activity will also slowly return.”

That decision was made according to the government’s protocol for the de-escalation of measures to combat coronavirus. With the R rate at 0.2 and the number of recoveries greater than the number of new cases, Sánchez is optimistic the majority of the country will have reached phase three of the de-escalation protocol by June 8 – a condition necessary for La Liga to meet its target of returning on June 12.

La Liga had hoped to be able to play the second half of the Second Division game between Rayo Vallecano and Albacete, abandoned in December, on June 9 and then fully restart competition in the first and second divisions that weekend.

It is possible that it could be brought forward. Teams are already training in groups of 10 and there is optimism they will be allowed to move to full-squad sessions from today.

The intention is to play games daily until the close of the competition on July 31, ready for European matches to restart in August.

More than two months after the Covid-19 pandemic halted the season in Spain, players have begun training in small groups as they aim to be as ready as possible for the planned reboot next month.

La Liga president Tebas has said the preferred date for games to resume is Friday, June 12 and Sanchez’s announcement means that plan has been given the green light from the government.

Clubs have 11 games left to play to finish the season, with the proposed final round to be completed by the end of July.

A compressed calendar would mean teams playing matches both in midweek and at weekends while fixtures will be held behind closed doors, with only 197 people allowed to attend, according to a protocol prepared by La Liga. Players will also undergo tests for coronavirus the day before games and will have their temperatures taken before being allowed to enter stadiums. LaLiga’s staggered training programme meant players began working individually at training grounds on May 4 and were able to expand into groups of up to 10 players last week.

The top-flight was first suspended on March 12 after Real Madrid went into quarantine on the same day following the positive test of one of the club’s basketball players.

But Tebas has been adamant the league must restart, having estimated that a cancellation of the season would cost clubs around one billion euros. France’s Ligue 1 has been cut short, with Paris Saint-Germain declared champions, while the Bundesliga in Germany became the first major European league to resume behind closed doors last weekend.

Tebas has said the chance is low of players infecting each other during games.

“In the match environment, infection is practically impossible because we have carried out a study that we will present that shows the smallest risk is in matches if everyone respects the medical protocol — AFP.