La Liga, the pinnacle of Spanish sport, has been indefinitely suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the world. Earlier this month, Matchdays 28 and 29 were postponed, leaving La Liga in limbo with only 2 points separating the leading teams, defending champions Barcelona, from Real Madrid.
The initial state of emergency measures taken by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is now due to be extended for a further 15 days, until 11 April, as the number of cases of the virus have soared in Spain. With over 42,000 reported cases so far, and almost 3,000 deaths, the country is struggling to contain the rate of contagion and the strict regime imposed by the Spanish government to reduce social contact precludes any public gathering including, of course, the national game of football.
The adverse effects of the pandemic are not unique to La Liga, of course. The reach of coronavirus is truly global. In North America, sporting bodies in both the United States and Canada have been forced to shut up shop as the coronavirus pandemic ramps up. 54,000 citizens have coronavirus in the United States, with almost 800 deaths, whilst Canada is suffering to a lesser degree thus far, with almost 3,000 infected and 26 deaths.
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The further extension of the state of emergency will mean that the 2019/20 season is severely compromised. This week, La Liga and the Spanish Federation announced the indefinite postponement of the league, pending a decision by the Spanish government that it will be safe to resume play. La Liga has already estimated the financial losses as a result of the pandemic to be around 700 million euros and this financial hit is likely to increase as time marches on. Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia are also participating in the UEFA Champions League and, again, there will be a financial cost for these clubs if the tournament fails to be completed. Already, some clubs are taking measures to limit the financial damage. For example, Barcelona has announced a 70% pay cut for its team during the lockdown period. Clubs will be forced to tighten their belts further as time progresses.
The President of FIFA, the international governing body for the sport, has called for the teams and players of La Liga and all other leagues to unite in the fight against coronavirus. Gianni Infantino says “These are difficult days, it is a difficult time, and we have one big opponent, it is coronavirus, it is COVID-19”. The FIFA President, speaking at the launch of a coronavirus awareness campaign at the World Health Organisation HQ in Geneva, added “In these times, football has to show solidarity and it has to show unity. We have to show that we are working together, that we are a team.”