It feels like a post-apocalyptic journal in the making, with these updates having carried on from Monday this week until now.
Here is the latest, as the world of professional sports collides with everyday concerns:
Roma Suspend Training Amid UEFA Indecision
The women’s team has called off training, ditto the Primavera team and ditto all Serie A teams around the country that don’t have cup-competition football on the immediate calendar. Ditto even both Juventus and Inter Milan despite cup concerns, now that both have had to self-quarantine after having showed up to the Derby d’Italia game, where Juve’s Daniele Rugani was (unknown to him) carrying the virus at the time.
However, UEFA were reportedly refusing to let the Champions League and Europa League die without a fight, and are reportedly pushing through the idea of a one-off game between Roma and Sevilla, next Thursday, to decide the entire tie on neutral ground.
The situation has since taken a turn, as Real Madrid had to impose self-quarantine with a basketball player testing positive, effectively meaning both CL fixtures next week won’t be played anyway.
That led to Madrid-based paper Marca trying to pressure UEFA into suspending all European football.
But, incredibly, all UEFA have done is call a meeting into the middle of next week to decide, as Calcio e Finanza reports here.
As the Corriere dello Sport reports, that leaves Roma having to prepare next week’s provisional training sessions - starting Sunday - with thermal scanners, plastic cups and paper plates, among other strict lockdown rules. It would be simpler for everyone if UEFA would just give in, so that Roma could suspend training indefinitely.
Some journalists even suggest Roma are ready to hand in a formal letter to UEFA asking them directly to put an end to this.
We don’t pretend to be infectious disease experts but, if any of the Coronavirus graphical maps online are something to go by, finding “neutral ground” to play a match is a pipedream.
And, further to the story on the TV money losses that the domestic leagues are facing (more on that below), UEFA have no choice but to get out of the way and let domestic football come up with a short-term plan to cover its own bets.
Pallotta Denies COVID Pandemic is Holding Up Takeover Deal
When asked by Rome radio station Centro Suono Sport (via ForzaRoma) whether it was true that the Corona virus alert was holding up Dan Friedkin’s takeover of Roma, James Pallotta’s reply was: “No.”
However, when pressed for more details, Pallotta was not spilling anything other than: “Ask Dan and his guys [why the deal hasn’t happened yet].”
The most we can take from this is that either these “exclusives” on Dan Friedkin’s entourage are false, or the anonymous source in Friedkin’s camp is stalling for time by feeding false information to the press.
But while the Italian SEC reportedly investigates the club’s rise and fall on the stock market over the course of a weekend, Pallotta has at least one real reason not to do that much.
The common sense bet here is that there is no deal between Pallotta and Dan Friedkin for now, leaving Roma working on another way to cover their losses before June 30th in the meantime.
Serie A Clubs Pushing for April/May Restart
Speaking of June deadlines, that’s exactly what’s on the minds of the Lega Serie A when deciding how to wrap up the 2019/20 domestic league season.
The top flight clubs reportedly (via ForzaRoma) favour restarting the league at the beginning of either April or May, with a possible delay to the end of the season all the same. Chief among the league’s concerns is not having to call-up, or even compete without, players who’s contracts would expire past June 30th.
It’s also thought that the Italian government’s decision to suspend all play had saved Serie A’s clubs from having to accept responsibility for stepping outside the terms of their TV deal with the networks.
The force majeure situation buys them some time on that front, but that hasn’t stopped Calcio e Finanza from doing an ad-hoc estimation of the TV money forfeited over the next month:
Ipotizzando che lo Stato sospenda per un mese le scadenze fiscali e contributive dovute dai club per l'emergenza #coronavirus, il risparmio mensile per il calcio potrebbe aggirarsi attorno agli 98,68 milioni (71,6 milioni per i club di #SerieA)https://t.co/97ProIZIbI pic.twitter.com/mqc3xi6x6x— Calcio e Finanza (@CalcioFinanza) March 12, 2020
That’s an estimated 71.6 million euros lost for Serie A clubs just for suspending play until April - let alone May. There’s also a further 25 million euros lost for lower-league clubs around Italy, which we can’t even imagine what that means for their sporting existence.
Not to say that this matters above their actual, physical existence and health, which is everyone’s concern. But, as far as a sporting resolution goes, a lot of this still depends on UEFA’s decision to either clear the way or not.
Without cup competitions getting involved (including the domestic Coppa Italia) then even an early May restart to play out the rest of this season is do-able on the fixture calendar, from then until the end of June. But with the cup competitions involved - and not to mention Euro 2020 - it looks more likely that Serie A would have to take the option of declaring the final league standings early, or just not awarding the 2019/20 league title at all.
It’s understood, however, that all Serie A clubs unanimously rejected the FIGC’s idea of playoff games to settle the title, European and relegation concerns.
That leaves Italian football with just three options on the table to move on, even if no one knows what the world will look like next week, let alone next month. So it’s impossible to say whether restarting the circus - now or anytime - is even the right call on any calendar date, while everyone else is asked keep showing unity and sacrifice their own way of living by staying indoors.
Finally, on a more upbeat note: They may be an outspoken family but, if the world does shut down tomorrow, let my last CdT-journal entry book-end with Nicolo Zaniolo paying homage to his footballing father on Igor Zaniolo’s birthday.
Happy Birthday, Zaniolo Sr.