Return of football will signal progression to new normal: LaLiga president Tebas | Exclusive
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” These words of the great humanitarian Nelson Mandela are quite apt for the times that we live in today. When everything around us is uncertain, the only thing that can be a constant is hope. And it is this hope of getting lives back on track that is helping people around the world fight this onerous battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
Sports and art have often provided refuge to the battered soul of humanity in troubled times. Efforts are currently on, across the world, to bring live sports back into the life of people. It might not be easy, but the process has begun. In Spain, one of the worst hit by the pandemic, life will never be the same for many. But football remains an inextricable part of its culture and LaLiga, the country’s premier football league, is trying its best to provide a soothing touch to millions of fans by bringing the game back and close out the ongoing season.
The teams have slowly returned for training and the groundwork is being laid for a restart. LaLiga president Javier Tebas, in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, gave out the details of this process. Here are the excerpts.
Q) By when is the realistic possibility of getting LaLiga back and what steps are you taking to make this happen in these troubled times?
The idea is that we can return in the middle of June, but the date will depend on what the health authorities tell us, we work closely with them and always follow their guidance.
For the moment we have been able to take the first step which is to return to training, great news for everyone, but under strict safety measures for the health of all. As of now we are continuing to apply the protocol created by LaLiga and agreed with Spanish sports and health authorities, in order to guarantee as much as possible the health and safety of all players, coaching staff and club employees.
At the moment we are in the phase of individual training, which will become group training in line with government de-escalation measures. We will continue to follow this staged approach and we hope to resume the competition behind closed doors in June.
Q) Even if there are no spectators involved, the broadcast of a match will involve an entire crew and that will bring people in close contact, how will safety be ensured in such cases?
People’s health is paramount, so we have a comprehensive protocol to safeguard the health of everyone involved as we work to restart LaLiga. We will continue testing players, coaches and club employees, as well as the minimum number of staff required for the broadcasting of the matches. As has been done with the training sessions, where our protocol preserves the health of all those who have to go to the fields, the matches will be just as safe. Our protocol explains all the steps that must be followed by those who enter the stadium, protection measures, prevention, social distancing, hygiene, etc. to ensure that this return is as safe as possible.
Q) With vaccination still some time away, how do you see Covid 19 changing live sports in the days to come?
At the moment the first measure is to play the games behind closed doors to avoid any risk with the fans. They will still be able to enjoy the best football on television.
As for the footballers and other employees of the clubs, LaLiga’s protocol provides very clear measures that must be observed to ensure everyone’s safety. Norms related to social distancing, protective elements, the accesses to the fields, transport, clothes, etc are being followed.
We will communicate the forthcoming stages of the protocol which will include live matches as the time comes. Following this protocol is important to allow players to return to work safely, but it can also help minimise economic losses and assures sporting integrity by allowing the competition to be concluded.
Q) Covid 19 has taught the world to be ready for a pandemic of this scale as something like this can happen again. To ensure the show goes on in future, what steps will you advise for live sports?
No one could have foreseen a virus like this and we’ve all learned how to fight it. The most important thing is to work in coordination with the government health authorities in order to be able to carry out the sports events with safety for the health of the athletes, and all the employees, and when possible the fans. And in the meantime, being able to enjoy sport on television, which thanks to technological advances, has already become a unique experience
Q) What will be the calendar like once the LaLiga resumes?
Once LaLiga restarts, there will be plenty of football for fans to enjoy in the upcoming months. We are working to organize the games within a schedule that will be tight, as we move through the phases of this crisis we will be announcing how we will organize the matches. That said, football won’t really be back until the stands are filled with fans again. Playing behind closed doors, without fans, is an unfortunate measure. We look forward to seeing stadiums full of fans.
Q) What is the backup plan if the resumption gets delayed or if it has to be stopped again before completion?
Our intention is that the competition will return as soon as possible, but without rushing and always under the indications of the competent authorities in this matter. The ideal would be to start in mid-June, but it will be done when we have all the guarantees for everyone’s health. We will continue working to make the return safe
Q) What is your message to footballers, football fans, professionals in these difficult times?
The return of football is a sign that society is progressing towards the new normal. It will also bring back an element of life that people in Spain and around the world know and love. My thoughts are with the families of the victims of this crisis and to all those who are suffering from it. It is a difficult time for everyone, but we have to keep working to get out of it. We hope that soon we will be able to take all the excitement of our football on television -in Facebook in India- to all corners of the world and continue to entertain them as we have always done.