Professional leagues worldwide are frantically deciding what to do with the rest of their seasons amidst the coronavirus pandemic. France took the most drastic option and canceled the rest of the matches. This decision gives Paris Saint-Germain the Ligue 1 championship by default, but the repercussions will be felt by everyone.
Was this the right direction for the organizers of the league to choose? And will leagues here in America look to follow their example?
Giving PSG the title is the least controversial consequence
IThe 2019-20 French football season was over when Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that no sporting events would take place until at least September. (The Netherlands made the same decision.)
This led to a lot of handwringing from French clubs angry that the season is “complete” after 27 or 28 games instead of the full 38. However, the destination of the championship trophy is the least problematic piece of the fallout.
Paris Saint-Germain received the title. Few are upset about this because PSG has long since made Ligue 1 a procession. Since being taken over by the entertainment arm of the Qatari government in 2011 — a business deal that’s only gotten more controversial over time — PSG has won the league every year except in 2012.
French soccer experienced this sort of dominance fairly recently. Olympique Lyonnais (commonly referred to as Lyon) won seven straight titles from 2002 to 2009. But the hegemony hits differently when the team doing can flout financial regulations to spend 400 million Euros to bring Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to the club. Most of the frustration about the season’s end comes from clubs with less ambitious aspirations.
The smaller clubs are hurt the most by ending the season now
Although the soccer industry is worth billions, the sports world is not immune to the fact that those with the least resources will always feel the crisis most. Ending the season now doesn’t just decide the title winners. It also decides who makes it into the prestigious Champions League, the less prestigious Europa League, and Ligue 2.
Those places make a huge difference not just on the clubs’ status, but also on their bank accounts. Making it into the Champions League brings millions of Euros into the club while dropping into the second division can have severe consequences for teams unable to escape the drop.
A few clubs are already making it known that they intend to fight this decision. Two clubs set to be relegated, Amiens and Toulouse, have announced they will attempt to appeal the ruling, reports The Guardian.
Will the NBA or the NHL follow suit?
Is there a right way to handle a situation that no one ever imagined was possible? This is the question being asked by the leaders of sports leagues around the world. Ending the season is the best option for public safety.
Clubs on the brink of relegation or promotion will be livid if a season isn’t allowed to finish. If COVID-19 doesn’t postpone the next season, then all of the legal battles brought on by teams like Amiens and Lyon would.
There’s also the issue with the TV companies who agreed to massive deals assuming a certain amount of games were guaranteed. Ligue 1 is also dealing with this problem, reports ProMedia. The league’s main broadcaster recently refused to pay a 110 million Euro installment on their contract citing the loss of revenue during the pandemic.
These issues and arguments can all be constructive on what the NBA and NHL will do with their seasons in stasis. The motivations are clearly to restart the season in some form.
There is too much money on the line for every party. The idea that the NBA could have playoff games in June is absurd. But Adam Silver wouldn’t be doing his job if he listened exclusively to medical experts.
If you squint, you can see hope on the horizon. South Korea’s baseball and soccer leagues resumed in empty stadiums, while the German Bundesliga returns, too, according to ESPN. Both countries followed strict social distancing guidelines and made testing available to citizens. If sports will return to something resembling normality, then this model must be followed.