LaLiga set to return with Seville derby; Lyon still challenging French halt
LaLiga is lining up to resume its season on 11 June, Javier Tebas, the president of the Spanish league, has announced.
The first match back is set to be a local derby between Sevilla and Real Betis.
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga has been suspended since mid-March but the health situation has improved in Spain in recent weeks, with lockdown restrictions lifted, and on Saturday prime minister Pedro Sanchez approved the top two divisions to resume matches, behind closed doors, from 8 June.
Tebas said on Sunday: “It is possible that on Thursday, June 11, we could have our first game. We would like it to be the Seville derby at 10pm. It would be our hope to have a single league game that day so that the teams play exclusively for all of Spain, almost as a tribute and to what has happened."
He added: “The government's announcement took us by surprise but it shows that professional football is very important to this country. Our aim is to be able to announce the first four rounds of fixtures next week."
Earlier this month, the German Bundesliga became the first major league to resume, albeit without spectators, since the pandemic took hold in Europe in the spring, and Italy’s Serie A and England’s Premier League are looking at similar restarts in mid-June.
The Premier League clubs started non-contact training with small groups last week, and, with contact training expected to be approved on Wednesday, are working towards a resumption of the season, possibly as early as 12 June.
In an interview with BBC Sport last Friday, chief executive Richard Masters said: “There is some momentum. We’ve taken the first step.”
He added that the league would have to be “flexible” over a return date, and that “curtailment is still a possibility.”
The second-tier EFL Championship is also hoping to resume its 2019-20 season next month but England's top women's leagues will not be returning after the Football Association yesterday confirmed the end of the Women's Super League and Women's Championship campaigns, with title and promotion and relegation issues to be decided at a later date.
After the French government banned major sports events until September, the LFP, the French professional league, has already taken the decision to terminate the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons.
Runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain were crowned Ligue 1 champions but some clubs led by Olympique Lyonnais are still trying to overturn the 30 April decision, claiming it was taken prematurely and citing economic and sporting reasons.
On Friday, an appeal lodged by Lyon and relegated clubs Amiens and Toulouse was rejected by a Paris administrative court.
However, Lyon, led by outspoken president Jean-Michel Aulas and which narrowly missed out on qualification for European club competitions, intend to take their case to the Council of State if the league is not restarted.
In an open letter to the French prime minister and sports minister yesterday, Aulas wrote: “June 2 will allow the organisation of the relaxation of lockdown, to bring into line the decisions relating to collective worship, horse racing or even the next municipal elections.
“Many developments and hopes are expected on this date for France to finally regain a positive dynamic. Could we imagine that June 2 is also a great opportunity to rectify the error concerning French football and allow, with a health protocol used everywhere, to give the starting point for a gradual resumption of training and, why not, a resumption of the 2019-20 league season in the months of July or August…”
In a statement praising LaLiga’s decision to resume, Aulas had cited Tebas’ claim that Spanish soccer stood to lose €1 billion ($1.1 billion) if the season was terminated, and only €300 million if it was concluded behind closed doors.
He stated: “Olympique Lyonnais hopes that the example of Spain coming after that of Germany will make it possible to reconsider the decision taken in France too hastily.”
Aulas also argued that, on top of “the economic catastrophe” for the French league, the termination of the 2019-20 season would also damage the chances of his team and PSG in the Uefa Champions League, which they are both still in, and which Uefa hopes to conclude in August.