ROME: Italy’s sports minister said he will propose extending the ban on all competitions to the whole of April in an effort to contain the coronavirus.
The current nationwide lockdown is due to expire on Friday but Italian health experts have said the need to try to contain Covid-19 will likely last weeks beyond that.
Minister Vincenzo Spadafora told Italian daily La Repubblica in an interview that talks about restarting the top-flight Serie A football league on May 3 are unrealistic.
“Restarting matches ... is unrealistic,” he said. “Tomorrow [on Monday] I will propose extending the ban on sports competitions at every level for all of April. And I'llextend the measure to training an area where we hadn’t intervened because there was still a possibility of holding the Olympics.”
Some clubs like Lazio and Napoli had been pushing to restart training as soon as this week.
Serie A has been suspended since March 9 and the Euro 2020 Championship was postponed for a year on March 17.
At least 15 Serie A players have tested positive for COVID-19.
Overall, Italy has nearly 100,000 positive cases and days ago surpassed the total in China, where the outbreak began in late 2019.
The minister added that he would draw up a plan worth 400 million euros ($446 million) for sports associations and amateur clubs and called on Serie A to adopt “a serious willingness to change”.
“The big clubs live in a bubble, beyond their means, starting with the millionaire wages of the players. They need to understand that nothing will be like before anymore after this crisis.”
To that end, on Saturday Cristiano Ronaldo and his Juventus team-mates along with coach Maurizio Sarri agreed to forego 90 million euros ($100 million) in wages to help the club during the crisis.
Sarri and the first-team players have agreed what amounts to a four-month pay reduction to help Italy’’ most successful club during the coronavirus crisis.
The effective one-third cut to the players’ annual salaries will mean a huge drop in wages for a squad headed by marquee Portuguese player Ronaldo, the best-paid footballer in Italy who is reported to earn 31 million euros a year.
The agreement comes at a time when many clubs around Europe have had to cut wage bills because of the dramatic impact of matches having had to be postponed or played behind closed doors due to the spread of the virus.
“The economic and financial effects of the understanding reached are positive for about 90 million euros for the 2019/2020 financial year”, Juventus, who led second-placed Lazio by a point in Serie A before the suspension of the season, said in a statement.
“The understanding provides for the reduction of the compensation for an amount equal to the monthly payments of March, April, May and June 2020”, it added, saying personal agreements with Sarri and the players will be finalised in the coming weeks.
The Turin-based club, in one of the regions hit hardest by the crisis, have suffered in recent weeks with three of their players having tested positive for the virus — forward Paulo Dybala, defender Daniele Rugani and midfielder Blaise Matuidi.
Long-standing defender Giorgio Chiellini led the players’ negotiations amid reports in the Italian media that Ronaldo had agreed to sacrifice 3.8 million euros of his yearly wage to ease the financial burden on the club while Italy is in lockdown.
The agreement comes the day after leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid took the decision to cut the wages of their staff, including the players, to ease the financial burden on the club.
Atletico joined La Liga rivals Barcelona, who imposed a compulsory wage reduction on their players during the period of lockdown after Spain became the second-most affected country by the coronavirus in Europe behind Italy.
German Bundesliga clubs Bayern Munich, Borussia Moenchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund have also said their players would forego some of their salary.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2020