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Football leagues around the world abandon and resume leagues amid COVID-19 outbreak

Football federation around the world abandons leagues amid coronavirus outbreak; Why some declared their leagues null and void, while others have declared winners and some are resuming or planning to resume.

Leagues abandoned and declared winners or final positions

As of 16 May 2020, they are 8 (4 in Europe and 4 in Africa) major leagues around the world that have abandoned their leagues. These are countries that have either been hardest hit or have banned social gatherings in their country for months to come. As we all know all major leagues around Europe and some in Africa are due to end in June. Some players after June will be moving to other teams and leagues will be looking to start the new season in August 2020.

Belgium was the first to cancel their league on the 2 of April and declare Club Brugge as winners. However, the Jupiler Pro League had somewhat of an easy decision to make with 1 game left; Club Brugge was leading the log with 15 points. However, the Belgium league has not made decisions on regulations places since the bottom 3 teams can change places should one win and the other lose. In the Belgium league, 2 teams are relegated after the season ends.

The French league 1 has abandoned their league for season 2019-20 and declared PSG as the winner. Surprisingly, the French league employed a points average system to confirm league positions since other teams played 1 game more than others. The decision has had a lot of resistance over the relegation decision. "Six of Amiens' final 10 matches were against teams placed 11th or lower in Ligue 1", said an official of the team.

In the Netherlands, the Eredivisie has been canceled, no titled was awarded and the log was unaltered! This meant that the first and second teams on the log will play in the UEAF and the third team will play in the Europa Cup, and the fourth and fifth team will play in the preliminary round. Utrecht which had a game in hand and was sixth on the log, are taking the Dutch FA to court since they believe they were in a good position to qualify for the Europa preliminary round. If the points average system used in France would be used, Utrecht would still end up on sixth: Utrecht would have 1.64 and Willem II would have an average of 1.69 points average. But Utrecht has a superior goal difference which means if they win their game in hand they will be above Willem II and qualify for the preliminary round.

In Scotland, the league was canceled after clubs voted unanimously for the league to be abandoned. Celtic FC has been crowned the champions of the Scottish Premier League with 8 games still to play and a lead of 13 points. Second-placed Rangers had played one less game from leaders Celtic FC. The average point system was used to determine places since other teams played one game more or less than others. The decision puts England the neighbor of Scotland under pressure to cancel!

In Africa, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) correctly abandons games due to coronavirus but they declared Gor Mahai as a winner with 12 games to be played and Gor Mahai is only leading the log by 4 points from second-placed Kakamenga Homeboyz. Angola, Ethiopia, and Mauritius have canceled their leagues due to coronavirus and declared them null and void. When you declare league null and void, it means you will have no representation in CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup. This may be a big reason for other leagues in Africa to not follow nations such as Angola, Ethiopia, and Mauritius because of representation in African club tournaments and some need the financial money they receive from these tournaments to survive!

Leagues set to resuming: Bundesliga leading the way

The German Bundesliga has returned to action as of the 16th of May! As of 16th of May 2020, Germany has 175 921 cases confirmed and 8003 deaths due to coronavirus according to Worldometer website. For the 16th of May, Germany had 222 new cases and 2 deaths. 

The Bundesliga has introduced the following contingency plans to ensure football runs safely during the coronavirus pandemic:
  1. All games to be played behind closed doors
  2. All teams to be quarantined for a week before the league kicks off
  3. Regular screening of players for symptoms of coronavirus and body temperature
  4. Testing of player at least twice a week for coronavirus
  5. Players and those they are living with not allowed to use public transport
  6. At home, all player to follow strict social distancing from the public except for persons their are living with
  7. Dressing room there must be enough room to implement social distancing and a limited number of players will be allowed in the showers.
  8. Players will enter the stadium via different routes
  9. No shaking of hands between players
  10. Social distancing must be applied to the player's bench.
  11. The players should use multiple buses when traveling to matches
There only grey area that has not been adequately addressed is what happens if a player tests positive since the player will have been in contact with the entire team!

In America, an article describes that for baseball to continue the players will need to be quarantined and live in hotels away from the public. But should a player test positive for the virus everything can fall apart!


Leagues which are set to restart or have not made a decision to cancel

The English Premier League (EPL), has not set a date for the resumption of their league. However, the EPL has allowed teams to start training again but will have to apply social distancing in training! As of 16 May 2020, UK has 240 161 confirmed cases and 34 466 deaths, and is the epicenter of coronavirus in Europe. On 16 May, UK has had 3450 new cases and 468 deaths. This is very high compared to the Germans which had 222 new case and 2 deaths. Football in UK may only start when the numbers drop to the likes of Germany.

Italy once the epicenter of the coronavirus in Europe which has 31 763 deaths as of 16 May 2020. Italy is currently easing lockdown measures and has had 875 new cases and 153 new deaths on 16 May 2020. Serie A teams still waiting for approval from Government to resume training.

Spain the second-worst hit country in Europe by the coronavirus, has had 27 650 deaths as of 17 May 2020. On 17 May 2020, Spain has had 1 214 new cases and 87 new deaths. Laliga teams have started training. "Laliga is looking to restart the league to avoid losses of around 1 billion euros", says Supersport article.

EPL, Seria A, and Laliga will be hoping to start in June and finish before the start of the new season in August to avoid a delayed start of the new season and player contracts issues. Teams also need to prepare for the new season, which has been a month-long preseason in the past.

In South Africa (SA), one of the biggest leagues in Africa has not made a decision on whether the league will restart or will be canceled. Currently, South Africa has an increasing number of infections and deaths. However, the president of SA has made the announcement that the country will be moving to level 3 in June but has not announced if football will be allowed to continue. The time is running out for the PSL, teams are currently not training. Evidently, teams from Germany have needed at least a month to train before the resumption of the league; other countries such as England, Spain are following in the same direction.

Conclusion

When the league is canceled due to coronavirus, the has been huge debate were league positions for the qualification of major tournaments as well as relegated teams have been decided. However, the has been no debate over Club Brugge and PSG since they held commanding leads in their leagues. This means that if the EPL is canceled, Liverpool could be crowned champions without much debate from the other teams.

Leagues in Europe have canceled their leagues but have declared winners and some have declared positions to ensure that clubs are not affected financially by not playing in Europe club competition. While on the other hand, countries in Africa have done the opposite. This might signal the financial disparity between playing in African club competition versus playing in Europe club competition.

Playing football during the COVID-19 pandemic is dangerous and it is still to be seen what measures the Bundesliga will implement to ensure that football does not encourage the spread of the virus. The problem with football is that it is a contact sport and it is impossible to apply social distance law during a competitive game of football!


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