The Leagues & Matches
As of now, every official football league has postponed its matches until the spread of the pandemic is contained (with the only exception being the Belarusian Premier League).
Some matches had been initially conducted behind closed doors. For example, Manchester United played their first leg of Europa League last-16 tie against LASK with no fans around. Other leagues, like League 1, was limiting the number of fans in a stadium to one thousand.
That, however, was at the very beginning of March when the situation was less severe. For most countries, official football activities are prohibited until the end of April – and these restrictions are likely to be extended.
With most of the leagues currently on hold ‘until it is appropriate to resume the operations’, some major events are being rescheduled for the next year. Notably, Euro 2020 has now become Euro 2021. The situation has also caused the president of the UEFA to consider canceling Champions League and Europa League, something that might happen if the Coronavirus is not contained in the near future.
Although some teams are currently training despite the pandemic (for example, a handful of Bundesliga teams), the majority are not even allowed to gather on the same field. The clubs that are continuing to train are doing it with a plethora of limitations. No more than seven players are allowed on the field at once, with the acceptable distance between them being no less than 1.5 meters. Most clubs from other countries will be unable to keep their players in shape before the season resumes.
On top of that, the stadiums are not selling any tickets, and because there is currently no exposure, the sponsors are starting to drop out as well. For instance, Brazil’s Turner, which is a TV broadcasting giant, has started the process of terminating the contracts of eight clubs. That means less exposure, which leads to less incentive for the sponsors. The Corinthians and Santos have lost several sponsorships already.
Being pulled out of the usual schedule and rhythm of training, not only do players lose the ability to maintain their current form, but they also take significant pay cuts in order to help their teams cope with the difficult times. Notably, the players of Barcelona are going to take a voluntary 70% pay cut in order to support the club.
Although strategic measures are being taken by the football officials to ensure that the pandemic doesn’t wreak complete havoc, the situation might still lead to irreversible consequences. It is not unlikely that low-tier leagues, clubs, and players will have a hard time floating above the water, which might lead to the pool of professional teams slowly shrinking. With imminent severe damages yet to come, the sport will face a challenge that will test the resilience of its operational model and expose every vulnerability of the system.