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Europe's top soccer leagues and coronavirus: Where Premier League, La Liga, more stand with finishing 2019-20 season

Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was first published on April 16 as leagues make revisions to their existing plans or introduce new ones following consultation with government and health officials in their respective countries.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed regular life as countries fight to contain the spread of the disease. Professional sports were naturally hit hard, but even though new cases have slowed down across Europe, many top soccer leagues are starting to come to the realisation that resumption of play this season might not be possible.

With virtually every league title, European qualification for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, and relegation/promotion battles yet to be decided, all top leagues are committed to resolving the 2019-20 seasons before moving forward.

UEFA has set a deadline of Monday May 25 for all European leagues to outline how they might finish the campaign, reportedly no later than Aug. 2 before the European competitions are then played to a conclusion. But the Dutch Eredivisie has already been ended, quickly followed by Ligue 1. The Belgian FA has also said it cannot restart, though this has not yet been ratified, while the Scottish Premiership will be curtailed once approval is received from UEFA. 

With FIFA's medical committee chairman, Michel D'Hooghe, saying he does not believe football should resume until September at the earliest, it is doubtful just how many leagues will complete. Then will come the discussion over how the 2020-21 campaign can work with the postponed Euro 2020 to come in summer 2021.

Here is the state of play across Europe's top five domestic leagues as well as European football's ruling body, UEFA, which oversees club competitions as well as the European Championships.

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Jump to: England | Spain | Germany | Italy | France | UEFA

ENGLAND

Major leagues impacted: Premier League, English Championship, League One, League Two

Last game played: March 9
Current target date to resume: June 13
Will season be voided? Leagues are committed to finishing
Financial cost to league: $1.25 billion (£1bn) if cancelled

The Premier League has been suspended since March 13 and no date has yet been formally announced for the resumption, but the league has designated June 12 as a stage-post within their "Project Restart" plan. That date is likely to be pushed back by at least seven days due to clubs wanting between 4-5 weeks of training time to prepare for a return to action.

In the English Football League (EFL) below the Premier League, League 2 clubs have voted to end the season and for the table to be decided by points-per-game. League 1 and the Championship will vote next week to decide how to complete their season, but the Championship, which feeds into the Premier League, is likely to be completed on the pitch. June 13 is an optimistic return date. League 1 clubs are expected to vote to end their season, but the EFL wants to stage promotion play-offs in each division.

All games for the remainder of the 2019-20 season will be played without fans in attendance.

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What training plans have been set by leagues or teams?

Premier League players returned to training in step one of "Project Restart" this week. Players must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines and training can be done in groups of only five. The Premier League hope to advance to step two -- contact training -- as quickly as possible, but they might be forced to wait until the UK government reviews lockdown measures on June 1.

Premier League players are to be tested twice a week for COVID-19, with any players, staff or coaches who test positive (six, from the first testing done on May 19) forced to self-isolate for seven days. In the EFL, clubs are due to return to training on Monday, May 25, with players also being tested twice a week.

What has been discussed about how to return to action?

"Project Restart" is now underway at the step one stage, but off the pitch, there are still many issues to be resolved. The UK Police want games to be staged at neutral venues to avoid fans congregating outside home stadiums. Premier League clubs have asked for this to be reconsidered, but no resolution has yet been found.

Some players, including Newcastle's Danny Rose and Watford's Troy Deeney, have raised objections to a return to action without assurances that football will be safe. Regardless, football cannot resume without UK government backing and additional assurances from the authorities that it's safe to restart the season.

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How bad is the financial fallout?

Premier League clubs are facing a payment back to the TV companies of between £15m-20m due to the disruption caused to the fixture list by the COVID-19 shutdown. All clubs are facing big losses from the loss of income from crowds at games, with Manchester United set to be the biggest loser with games at Old Trafford usually worth at least £3m in matchday revenue.

The Premier League has sanctioned a £125m grant to help the EFL clubs through the shutdown, but the true extent of the financial meltdown will become clear only after the season is completed. -- Mark Ogden


SPAIN

Major leagues impacted: Primera Division, Segunda Division

Last game played: March 10
Current target date to resume: June 8 - June 12
Will season be voided? Leagues are committed to finishing
Financial cost to league: $1.084bn (£870m) if the season isn't completed, $380m (£305m) if it's completed behind closed doors

The last game played in Spain was Eibar vs. Real Sociedad behind closed doors on March 10. At first, the league was stopped for two rounds of games but that weekend, March 14, a state of alarm was announced and lockdown began. 

On April 28, Spain's Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, outlined a four-stage, six-to-eight week process for a "gradual, asymmetrical and coordinated" relaxation of the country's social distancing measures, aiming to reach "a new normality" by the end of June.

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With every first and second division team now back in the second phase of training -- working in groups of no more than 10 people -- Sanchez revealed on May 23 that "the green light has been given for the professional soccer league to be played again, from June 8." A source at La Liga has told ESPN that a specific date will be announced in the coming days, with June 12 remaining their target.

The idea is that there would be games every day until July 31, at which point European football would begin. (UEFA's deadline to complete the 2019-20 domestic season is Aug. 2.) A protocol is also being prepared to cover those matches, with a "cap" of 197 people at each first division match.

What training plans have been set by leagues or teams?

Professional players were able to train individually from May 4, under what the government called "phase zero" of the process. A week later, Spanish provinces meeting strict health requirements -- including the number of new coronavirus cases and hospital capacity -- were able to move to "phase one," which allows for training in small groups.

In practice, the situation has been even better than the league's original protocols anticipated. In line with government guidance, league teams began to return to individual training sessions two weeks ago, and since Monday May 19, all of them have been allowed to train in groups of 10 (not six or eight as had originally been suggested), giving a competitiveness and realism that had been lacking over those first seven days.

Prior to the return, mass testing revealed five positive cases of COVID-19: significantly fewer than the league had predicted.

What has been discussed about how to return to action?

Spanish football is defined by its ongoing, bitter and frequently embarrassing disputes between governing bodies, and the pandemic hasn't changed that. The league, federation and players' union AFE have often been at odds over how to handle the crisis. Tebas and the RFEF's Luis Rubiales were finally forced to sit down for talks by the National Sports Council on April 18, and the pair agreed to an uneasy truce, agreeing that the health authorities would have the final say on a way forward.

Players have been divided over a return to football, with many voicing concerns that the desire to complete the season is being prioritised over their health and safety.

Since those initial confrontations were overcome, and with the estimable help of the government, Tebas' drive and determination at the head of the league has given Spanish football a single voice that has been lacking in other countries. So while there are dissenters, they are few and rarely seem likely to actually break the consensus, while Tebas is insisting that the chances of contracting COVID-19 on the pitch are "virtually zero."

How bad is the financial fallout?

The league claims that football accounts for 1.37% of Spain's GDP. Now that games being played with fans in attendance -- which would have involved a mere $163m (£130m) loss -- have been essentially ruled out, there are two remaining levels of economic loss across the budgets of first division clubs: over $1bn (£870m) if the league isn't completed, and $381m (£305m) if it's completed behind closed doors.

Spain's clubs have already been paid 90% of their TV rights money and would be forced to repay some of that -- as well as not getting the final instalment -- if the season cannot be finished. -- Alex Kirkland and Sid Lowe


GERMANY

Major leagues impacted: 1. Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga

Last game played: March 11
Current target date to resume: Season restarted on May 16
Will season be voided? No
Financial cost to league: $800m (£640m) if no more games are played

The German Bundesliga became the first major league to return to action following the coronavirus outbreak after exhausted precautions, detailed protocols and specific guidelines for how games would work while observing appropriate distancing. So far, they've completed one full round of matches with the second set of fixtures happening this weekend.

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ITALY

Major leagues impacted: Serie A, Serie B

Last game played: March 9
Current target date to resume: No later than June 14
Will season be voided? Unclear: clubs can't agree on whether to resume
Financial cost to league: $650m-$800m (£520m-£640m) if season is abandoned

Serie A shut down in stages as different areas of the country went into lockdown at different times. The final match under normal conditions was on March 1, the last game played behind closed doors on March 9.

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The Italian Football Association has suggested a restart for June 13, but this has yet to be approved by the government. Technically, all professional sport is banned in Italy until June 14, though the league still hopes to get an exemption. It has issued a range of scenarios with different start dates, the latest being Aug. 2. A meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 28.

There are 12 matchdays to go, plus eight postponed games to make up; assuming the June 13 date sticks (or, at worst, June 20), this probably would mean ending the season in late July. Following on from that, the fixture list obviously has yet to be decided and there is still the possibility that, instead of playing out the rest of the season, Serie A clubs will play some kind of reduced schedule involving playoffs to determine the title, European places and relegation.

What training plans have been set by leagues or teams?

The government allowed clubs to return to training last week in small groups, while observing a raft of social distancing measures. That's considered the first step -- the second step involves full training and clubs hope to be able to do so in the next few days after a protocol was agreed with the government.

All players have been tested for the coronavirus, and those who test positive are following self-quarantine protocols.

What has been discussed about how to return to action?

The meeting between government officials, federation leaders and Serie A officials on Thursday will be pivotal. The parties involved have agreed in broad strokes on a protocol that mimics the one laid out by the Bundesliga, but it has yet to be approved for a return to full action.

The main sticking point is what to do if a player tests positive. The present protocol, where the player is quarantined but his teammates are not -- though they have to remain in quarantine as a group, they can still train together -- has yet to be approved once games restart. If the authorities insist on quarantining entire teams for two weeks should someone test positive, the idea is to accept this and play on, which is why they are willing to play on into August, spreading fixtures out if necessary.

How bad is the financial fallout?

Serie A expects to lose around $400m in lost box-office receipts because they'll be playing behind closed doors. Whether they also lose TV revenue will depend on whether they play again and how many matches are actually played.

Broadcasters have withheld the final instalment of TV money (around $270m) pending the government's decision. In the meantime, they're working on different scenarios where they'd pay a discounted amount if only a portion of matches are actually played, either because a COVID-19 flare up forces clubs to not finish the season or because they end up going with a reduced playoff format. -- Gab Marcotti


FRANCE

Major leagues impacted: Ligue 1, Ligue 2

Last game played: March 8
Current target date to resume: Season cancelled
Will season be voided? No
Financial cost to league: $292m-$364m (£235m-£293m)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced on Tuesday that there will be no football played in the country until September, technically ending the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons. The French league had put a plan in place for the 2019-2020 campaign to resume behind closed doors with Matchday 29 on June 17 then games every three days to finish the whole season on July 25, with the two cup finals also played in July.

The decision made by the government has come as an absolute shock. No one really saw it coming and French football will have to see how they move on from this with all the issues it brings. The LFP has used points per game for the final table, which saw Nice swap places with Reims into fifth on head-to-head, while Strasbourg moved above Angers into 10th.

Paris Saint-Germain (first) have been crowned champions. Marseille (second) will qualify for the Champions League with PSG, and Rennes (third) will go into the third qualifying round of the competition. Lille (fourth) and Nice (fifth) will go into the Europa League, with Reims (sixth) into the second-qualifying round, unless the domestic cup finals can be played. The bottom two in Ligue 1 (Toulouse and Amiens) will be relegated with the top two in Ligue 2 (Lorient and Lens) promoted. 

There will be some unhappy clubs who might take the federation to court, especially in Ligue 2, where it is much tighter at the top, with five teams (Lorient, Lens, AC Ajaccio, Troyes and Clermont, in order) all within four points after Matchday 28. Lyon are also angry, having missed out on European football next season which could have serious financial knock-on effects. 

How bad is the financial fallout?

Canal + and beINSport, the two domestic TV rights holders, have already announced they will not pay for the cancelled games. They were due to make a payment on June 5 for €177m in total ($220m). The clubs will not see that money. It is a significant amount on top of everything else they are already losing. The other loss of earnings is big. Clubs have all put their squads in part-time unemployment to reduce costs in the short term. At the moment, in the whole of Ligue 1, Monaco's Cesc Fabregas is the only one to have accepted a pay cut, as well as the Rennes squad. All the other clubs are yet to find an agreement with their players.

In terms of gate revenues, sponsorship deals and merchandising (as shops are still closed), the league estimated the shortfall to be between $72m and $145m (£58m-£116m) depending on the clubs. PSG, for example, will lose almost $3m (£2.5m) of revenue for each home game, while Amiens would miss out on $430,000 (£350,000). Most clubs have five remaining home matches except for Strasbourg, Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse, who have six, and Lille, Nice and Angers, who have four.

However, the biggest loss feared by French clubs could be caused by a drop in investment from foreign clubs during the transfer window. Ligue 1 is a selling league and it's crucial for French clubs to sell well. Clubs have seen the value of their squads drop because they've not been playing and teams have not been scouting. The clubs believe that they could be losing around $163m-$217m (£130m-£175m) compared to a "normal" transfer window like last summer, in which French clubs generated $450m (£360m) through player sales. -- Julien Laurens


UEFA

Major tournaments impacted: Champions League, Europa League, European Championships

Last games played: March 11
Current target date to resume: No published dates at present
Will season be voided? Uncertain
Financial cost to league: ($1.1bn) £1bn if cancelled

UEFA has already postponed Euro 2020 and moved the tournament to June/July 2021, but the desire remains for this season's Champions League and Europa League competitions to be played to a conclusion. Both tournaments have been suspended indefinitely, with the respective finals in Istanbul and Gdansk at the end of May postponed with Aug. 29 and Aug. 26 reported to be on the schedule.

UEFA president Aleksandar Ceferin admitted last month that this season will "probably be lost" if the Champions League and Europa League don't resume before the end of June.

What has been discussed about how to return to action?

Logistically, completing the club competitions is likely to prove incredibly difficult for UEFA due to the necessity for teams to leave their home countries and cross borders at a time when European nations are all at different stages of the coronavirus crisis. A working group involving UEFA, national associations and the European Club Association (ECA) has been set up to try to find a solution.

The round of 16 has yet to be completed in both competitions, so that is the first obstacle to be overcome. Playing the quarterfinals over 90 minutes rather than two legs is under consideration. Also being considered is whether to stage at a neutral venue or hand home advantage to the first team out of the draw.

The situation is also complicated by the French government banning football until September, with Paris Saint-Germain -- who are in the quarterfinals of the Champions League -- vowing to play their ties in another country if possible. Lyon are also still in the UCL, and are due to take a 1-0 lead to Juventus in the second leg of a round-of-16 tie.

If the competitions reach the semifinal stages, then there is a prospect of four clubs playing the semis and then the final in one city. All of the above depends on travel restrictions being lifted by individual countries.

How bad is the financial fallout?

Liverpool banked $121m (£97m) in prize money for winning the Champions League last season, but every participating club receives payment depending on how far they progress from a UEFA prize pool, which amounts to $2.1bn (£1.7bn). Unravelling that financial mess would be an issue if the Champions League is not completed. It would be a similar story in the Europa League, albeit on a much smaller scale, with the prize money in that competition totalling $552m (£442m).

UEFA also has broadcasting deals across the globe that must be honoured, with the prospect of some television companies withholding payments if fixtures are not played. Such a move would impact the prize money pots for each competition. -- Mark Ogden.

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