Football fans across Europe are starting to see signs of the sport returning to the field. But, in the face of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, authorities in Barbados and elsewhere in the Caribbean are not yet prepared to take those risks.
Indeed, football may not kick-off at all this year even if the Barbados Government allows contact sports to resume, following the restrictions implemented to fight the virus, says Barbados Football Association (BFA) president Randy Harris.
Even though there is a desire to see football return locally to the field, Harris who is also president of the Caribbean Football Union explained that Barbados and other Caribbean countries simply didn’t have the resources to ensure the safety of the players and spectators.
“Countries like Barbados and others in the Caribbean cannot and do not have the resources really to ensure any kind of football in the foreseeable future this year, being realistic. We cannot guarantee the safety of our players and patrons at this time,” he said.
Harris’ comments came following today’s announcement that the English Premier League would return on June 17 following its postponement because of COVID-19.
It has been two months since the English Premier League has been played. The announcement also came days after the return of the Bundesliga, a professional association football league in Germany.
Harris told Barbados TODAY via a telephone interview that world governing body FIFA and Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) were still waiting to see what happened globally before making a final decision about the way forward.
Several international fixtures for football have either been postponed or cancelled. FIFA and CONCACAF are expected to meet and discuss what adjustments will be made.
In Barbados, the players continue to do individual training. Harris said he did not see any short term answers to this pandemic and therefore the players would continue to train as is during this time.
“Right now we have to depend on the maturity of the players. The coach and the technical director have set out some programmes for them to work on individually. But as far as training together as a team, we cannot at this time see any way in the short term that we can afford to do that,” he said.
When the BFA suspended its season Weymouth Wales were leading the standings on 16 points from seven games, the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme were second on 12 points from six matches and Paradise were third with 11 points from seven games.
In addition to in England and Germany, other European clubs are close to returning to the field. Today, Italy’s sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora confirmed that Serie A would return on June 20 after the league was suspended on March 9. Juventus lead the table by a point with 12 rounds of matches remaining.
Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Saturday that La Liga could resume from June 8. Barcelona lead Real Madrid by two points at the top with 11 rounds of matches to play.
The German Bundesliga season resumed on May 16, becoming the first major league in Europe to return to competition. All matches are being played behind closed doors with Bayern Munich leading the way on 64 points.
However, like Barbados, the French Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons will not resume, with Paris St-Germain being awarded the top-flight title.
On April 25 in the Netherlands, the Eredivisie was abandoned and Belgium’s Pro-League cancelled their season, although the decision to ratify this is still pending.
And on May 18, Celtic were confirmed as Scottish champions for the ninth season in a row and Hearts relegated after the Scottish Premier Football League ended their season. The decision was taken at a board meeting after the 12 clubs agreed that completing the campaign was unfeasible.
The leagues, which have been exchanging information, will use similar health precautions which include regular testing of players, a limit of around 300 people allowed in the stadium and bans on pre-match handshakes, mascots and team photographs.
To televise as many games as possible, each round of matches will be played over four to six days with one rest day in between.
Some teams will not be able to play at home as health officials have judged that their stadiums are not suitable for the strict health measures which have to be put in place.
So far 12 people have tested positive for the coronavirus after 2,752 tests across the English league.
Premier League players and staff will continue to be tested twice a week, with the capacity increased from 50 to 60 tests per club for the fourth round of testing.
Any players or staff to test positive must self-isolate for a period of seven days.