La Liga, defiant in the face of a pandemic

PETALING JAYA: With so many events including the Olympics and European Championships, cancelled or suspended around the world, there was an air of pessimism everywhere.

Not in Spanish football, though. Pessimism is a word that La Liga president Javier Tebas (pic) does not want to be associated with.

While there were concerns that the country’s top league would follow suit and be cancelled, Tebas remained defiant.

Since March, Spain recorded more 243,000 cases and 27,136 deaths. There was a downward trend from May, but authorities were still cautious.

Tebas and his team in La Liga, meanwhile, were hard at work. Months of discussions with organisations, healthcare officials and government agencies have seen the league restarting with Sevilla beating Real Betis 2-0 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

“We have never thought about not playing. There were lots of behind the scenes work, especially with healthcare protocol, mathematical curves and looking at the cases data. We felt it was right to start in June, ” said Tebas in a video conference with several international reporters on Thursday.

“I would not say I am extra positive, but as the league, we have a responsibility towards broadcasters, clubs, players and officials.

“We have to recognise the fact that we have to go back to football, and based on what I have seen so far, clubs are abiding by the healthcare regulations, which is good.”

With no ticket sales or even fans visiting museums or stadiums, clubs will face a financial crunch in the months ahead, but Tebas was optimistic, saying that 90% of the clubs in La Liga and Segunda can survive the storm.

“Things will be back to normal after one-and-a-half seasons, I believe.

“We have our own financial control system, and we ensure clubs are guided by positive cash flows.

“We know clubs have reduced the salaries of the players, and in the transfer window, we expect some to do exchanges instead of paying exorbitant sums.

“Take the transfer window, for example. This season, more than €3bil (RM14bil) were spent, but we expect that to be reduced to around €800mil (RM3.9bil).

“Also, with fewer TV rights and no spectators, clubs could lose up to €700mil-€800mil (RM3.4bil-RM3.9bil).

“However, clubs are healthy financially, and they can cope. There is a worry that the league could lose top talents, but you have to understand that all of Europe is suffering from the pandemic. I am not too worried on that front.”

Realising that fans form the crux of the league, Tebas indicated that they could have some spectators before the end of the season, but it is all up to authorities.

“Of course it won’t be the entire stadium. If we can have even 10% or 15% by the end of the season, we will be pleased.

Tebas reminded the players not to flout the rules, as they have a huge responsibility in keeping the integrity of Spanish football intact.

“We hope we don’t have to reach that extreme (implementing lockdown measures between games), but if players cannot stop going to barbecues or parties, we will not have a choice.

“We have shown our trust in the players. Now, it’s their turn to pay back that trust.”

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Javier Tebas , La Liga , Football Is Back


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