The COVID-19 Standstill

Empty stadiums as Italy and the world struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak takes the world into new territory and one it is unable to cope with football has come close to a stand still. 

Italy is of course one of the hardest hit countries. The reasons for this will not become clear until later. Any current explanations are only (educated) guesses for now. 

Football is a big business that goes beyond the revenue collected close to the pitch. Gate and TV revenue present a major percentage of football income but many other industries, be they major, independent or freelance, rely on football being played and broadcast. Major sports betting apps like William Hill have taken a big hit as a result of empty pitches and suspended games. The search for revenue has led them to other avenues. Virtual games and other forms of online betting that don’t rely on physical games have surged and may make up for some of the lost revenue, for the short term at least. The same companies seek liquidity and financing to survive the shutdown and try to ride this pandemic out. The few matches that continued like in farther football reaches of Belarus provided some focus but can not fill the gap and are only viable for the very short term too.

As for the Serie A, the initial proposed length for the suspension of all football looks very optimistic now and the hoped early May return to training and games is unlikely. Various proposals that include playing many games in close proximity and ending the season by the end of June may not be realistic considering the spread of the virus. Medical research has accelerated its search for both a treatment and a vaccine but will need more time. The social distancing that has become the prime requirement of minimizing the spread will need to go on and any relaxation carries a big risk. 

Seeing this the Italian league may amend some betting and construction restrictions to let teams earn money and accelerate investment in the coming months and years.

Fans are therefore spending time at home and resorting to online games and other distractions. Several entertainment and gaming providers have granted temporary free or discounted access to their products and many educational resources have moved online.

Interestingly the number of transfer rumours have not dropped as much as some would imagine. One of these is a Gazidis led €2.5 million salary cap at Milan that if true jeopardizes the future of several players at Milan. Ibra, already rumoured to be disappointed at the state of the team, would be impossible to keep and he may either retire completely or pursue his career elsewhere. Whether a salary cap would actually apply to the likes of Romagnoli is questionable and his or other departures will obviously set the team back too much. Rangnick and therefore Maldini and Pioli’s future which looked close to decided are still subject to rumours too. 

In the midst of it all, here at MilanMania there is of course less football to talk about but there are updates on the forum. We all hope this pandemic is managed as well as possible and wish everybody well.