Without an idea how long it will take for Italy and the world to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, all we can do is speculate on how the remainder of the 2019/20 Serie A season will play out. Of course, calcio, along with other non-essential activities, were rightfully halted on the peninsula as the government pulls out all the stops to curb the spread of this horrid virus. With that in mind, the future of the Serie A season is secondary to the health and welfare of the Italian populace. But, with so much downtime for Italians on lock-down and fans worldwide practicing social distancing, the topic has come up often.
Various ideas have been shared as Italy navigates through this unprecedented time. Should the season just be called off completely? Should a playoff be played for the Scudetto and relegation places only? Is there anyway the calendar can be played out?
If and when Italy is able to resume life with a sense of normalcy, calcio will be an important part of it. Calcio is in the blood of Italians. And just like baseball helped New Yorkers cope in the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy, calcio will likely play a similar role in Italy.
Just how much Serie A we see depends on many factors, including the removal of large crowd restrictions and if/when/where UEFA decides to play Euro 2020. With so many variables in play, the President of the FIGC spoke to Corriere dello Sport on Sunday and shared what he would like to see happen once Italy emerges from the current health crisis.
Let’s take a look at some highlights from the interview. Then we’ll take a look at how Gravina’s ideas could affect Roma.
To begin, Gravina stated that he will push for the postponement of Euro 2020, something UEFA is set to discuss on Tuesday.
“We decide on Tuesday. But a statement is essential. The evolution of the epidemic traces a clear path. We are all involved in the same way. Nobody can think that this is an Italian problem anymore. Our country is only two weeks ahead of the rest of Europe. We must all put health first and then make common sense prevail. And common sense says that defending one big European event, scheduled for June, would be a strategic mistake.”
Gravina expressed his disappointment at having to postpone the Euros, especially with Italy having high hopes in the tournament, but it's a decision he feels is necessary despite the many drawbacks.
“Sure, but what does it mean? I am the first to be sorry. For the fans and for all the football collaborators who have been working on it for months. For the wonderful inaugural day in Rome that will be skipped. For the economic damage that will derive from football, beginning with the cancellation of the two friendlies against England and Germany. And for sporting expectation. We could have won it because we are in an extraordinary period and Mancini has worked very well »
Gravina again reiterated the need to put the health of everyone first before getting into saving the season.
“Well, I’d be content to save the health of all sportsmen, first of all. Then I have confidence to save the championships too.”
Gravina admitted that there is a June 30th deadline to ending the season, for various reasons.
“We have a deadline. It is June 30th. Contracts, insurance, licenses expire. The football year ends. Going further means introducing completely exceptional regulatory changes.”
Despite this deadline, Gravina feels there would be plenty of time to complete the remaining 13 rounds of the Serie A calendar, even when you consider the various European commitments of Italian teams.
“45 to 60 days. In two months we could complete everything with certainty. Even if we start in May, it can be done.”
Gravina also admitted that the original April 3rd restate date is very unlikely, but if his previous comment is true then it’s not a necessity to complete the calendar.
“I believe that April will still be partly a month of suffering, and partly to accompany the resumption of activities. But I don’t have a crystal ball.”
Corriere followed up some questions about a scenario where the virus carried into May. If that were to happen the calendar wouldn’t be able to be completed by June 30th. That brings up many issues, including assigning the Scudetto, as well as relegation and promotion. The latter two being even more important than the Scudetto in many ways.
“Everyone thinks that the only problem is to assign the championship. But we have to establish who goes in the Champions League and the Europa League, who goes back to B, who goes up to A, who goes back to C and who goes up to B. Does that seem like little to you?”
“It has something to do with it [the Scudetto], because theoretically you could not even assign the title, but everything else has to be established. Giving up on promotions and relegations would be a violation of the subjective interests of many clubs.”
This led the paper to ask if a crystallized table was good enough to assign European places, if it was good enough to assign the title. Gravina wouldn’t give an answer to this because it’s something he wants to avoid.
“I wouldn’t want to answer this question. Because I think that freezing a ranking is a mistake to avoid. The value of competition must be safeguarded. We have to give those who have invested a lot on a sporting goal a chance. It means playing as much as possible. Carry on with the championship and finish it, if possible.”
“Find a formula that saves the competition. Playoffs and playouts.”
“It seems normal to me. Those who aim to win or save themselves would prefer to play them all. And it’s right. But at this moment nobody has the certainty of being able to do one thing rather than another.”
«So I said to all the Leagues: make your proposals, let’s discuss. But the rules must be set immediately, before starting to play again. And the last word belongs to the Federation, not to others.”
In order to uphold the integrity of the season, Gravina emphasized the need for the rules to be set by federations before play is resumed.
There’s no telling how the Coronavirus pandemic will play out; the hope is that things will begin to improve on the peninsula after the government mandated lock-down period. However, with Italy being the litmus test of these measures in Europe there is no guarantee of success.
If things do improve and play resumes, a rescheduling of the entire Serie A and UEFA calendar would be in Roma’s best interests. Sitting in fifth place, just three points behind Atalanta (who have a game in hand), Roma's Champions League hopes may rest on a complete/rescheduled season—they'll need the matches to gain ground in the table.
If, however, the season does end with the table frozen as it currently stands, not only would Roma lose the chance to qualify for the Champions League through the table, they'd also miss out on the proposed Scudetto playoffs, as they include only the top four clubs. A cancellation of the Europa League altogether would also close that path to next season's Champions League.
Public health and welfare comes first and foremost, so this will come as stating the obvious, but the sooner this crisis passes, the better it is for everyone affected by it. This includes the Giallorossi and their sporting goals.