Bologna's Federico Santander warms up during a training session in Bologna, Italy, Tuesday, May 5, 2020. No soccer balls. No contact with teammates. And no entering the locker room. One by one, Serie A players are returning to the training field this week under a strict set of guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AP Photo/Massimo Paolone
Bologna's Federico Santander warms up during a training session in Bologna, Italy, Tuesday, May 5, 2020. No soccer balls. No contact with teammates. And no entering the locker room. One by one, Serie A players are returning to the training field this week under a strict set of guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AP Photo/Massimo Paolone

Serie A sets date for restart, but problems remain

By Alberto Cagliano Time of article published May 14, 2020

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ROME - Having set a restart date after a lengthy coronavirus lockdown sounds like good news for cash-strapped Serie A clubs, who, however, face a few more hurdles on the way to full competition.

"June 13, let's play," Il Corriere dello Sport headlined on Thursday, specifying, as all the other newspaper did, that "the last word is on the government."

More than two months since the last top-flight game was played on March 9, the 20 clubs on Wednesday picked the mid-June date to begin playing the 12 remaining rounds in empty stadiums.

Government and domestic federation, meanwhile, reached an agreement to resume team training next Monday.

Individual workouts at camps have been allowed since May 4, with medical exams and frequent tests programmed to monitor possible infection of footballers and staff.

The safety protocol adopted by the federation will now see teams train together in isolation at their camp for at least two weeks, with further planning depending the government's cautious approach as it monitors the infection, which killed 195 people on Wednesday alone.

Early tests, meanwhile, found four positive cases at Sampdoria and three at Fiorentina. All were said to be asymptomatic and quarantined, bringing the total of infected Serie A players to 23.

After Monday, however, a positive case will extend the isolation period of the entire squad for two more weeks from the day the infection is found.

This seems to imply that a team won't be allowed to play games in case of a positive shortly before or once action has resumed.

The measure has also irked team medics, whom the protocol considers legally responsible for damages suffered from players during the retreat.

"We have already alerted our lawyers to make their observations on the protocol," Enrico Castellacci, who chairs the team doctors association, said this week.

"Once away games begin, the risk of infection is higher. With one case the league is blocked. This raises perplexities on the real will to restart. (The government) should let us know if they really want it."

Clubs' balances, meanwhile, have been hit by the interruption. Players hace accepted pay cuts but more damage could come from negotiations with television broadcasters.

Sky and DAZN, who reportedly are yet to pay a last instalment of 233 million euros (251.5 million dollars) for the current season, are said to be seeking a discount, given the months without games.

Despite financial troubles, Brescia, Torino and Sampdoria have been lukewarm about recommencing the season, while some groups of fans have flatly opposed it.

Banners against the restart were displayed last week from Roma fans, one reading: "Some die and suffer while others make money: stop the league."

Brescia, Atalanta and Torino supporters also displayed banners near stadiums as hundreds of fans groups across Europe issued a joint statement to criticize the resumption of leagues.

"We strongly ask [European governing body] UEFA and the national associations to keep the stop and stop the football competitions until crowding the stadiums is once again a habit free of risks for public health," the statement said.

dpa

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