French Football Season Called Off
The French Football Federation has announced the cancelation of all of the 2019/20 domestic football leagues in the country as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The declaration was made by the French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. The decision has been made to outlaw all sporting events in the country until September at the earliest.
France has been under one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe since the 14th of March after it was severely hit by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The country has recorded more than 168,000 cases and a total of 24,895 deaths as a result of the deadly virus.
One of the measures that were implemented by the government to help curb the spread of the virus was to postpone all sporting events in the country until the virus had been effectively controlled. This was only intended to be a temporary arrangement, however, and the football leagues in the country were supposed to recommence in June.
The more recent announcement from the Prime Minister will not have been a welcome announcement for football fans in the country, as now the government will implement a more comprehensive ban on sporting events effective as of the 11th of May. This ban on sporting events will come as a part of the easing of the lockdown in France but it means there will be no sports until September.
The French Football Federation’s Decision
The French Football Federation had been planning to resume the top tier and second division (Ligue 1 and Ligue 2) in France in order to determine the champions for each competition, as well as the teams that would be promoted or relegated for both. With the current directives from the government, the seasons will be canceled entirely and will begin from scratch come September.
The ban on sporting events will also apply to any events that could be played behind doors, so it will not be possible to decide on the results of the season by playing the games without spectators present.
The football association has, as a result of these measures, had to concede defeat and decide that it will be unable to reschedule any of the matches from this season.
In a statement on the most recent lockdown measures from the government, the French Football Federation announced that the current football season would be canceled. It did, however, offer some consolation for fans in France by saying that meetings were already been scheduled to decide on the conditions for the restart of football in September.
The Football Federation also informed of its intentions to meet with representatives of the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) in an attempt to reach an agreement on how the season should be ended. The LFP is the body that is responsible for the running of all of the major professional divisions in France and the Football Federation seems hopeful that an agreement will be reached.
Before the outbreak of the virus, the top division in France was led by Paris Saint-Germain, who had a 12 point cushion at the top. The second division was led by Lorient, who had a 2 point advantage over Lens in second.
The French league is not the first European football competition to be canceled in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19. The top division in the Netherlands, the Eredivisie, was called off just before the French league. The decision was made to cancel the season in Holland after the government banned all sporting events until the 1st of September at the earliest.
Likewise, in Belgium, all football has been suspended and the leagues were canceled. Interestingly, here the decision was made that the league title should be given to the team that led before the league was suspended, as such, Club Brugges won the title after being 15 points clear at the top at the time the league was suspended.
French Horse Racing Returns
It is still unknown whether the announcement by the French Prime Minister will affect horse racing in the country.
The organizers of horse racing in France recently announced the plan to return to racing from the 11th of May with very strict controls to help limit the transmission of the virus. These controls would include holding races behind closed doors and limiting the number of people in proximity with one another.
What has been proposed is that each horse may only be accompanied by one person who is responsible for taking them to the event and for looking after its well-being whilst at the races. There may also be a trainer and the jockey present at the event.
There would also be strict controls on the numbers of staff at the racecourse, which would be kept to an absolute minimum by monitoring access to the racetrack. Additionally, all staff would be provided with ample personal protective equipment and social distancing protocols would be practiced during the event.
The plan that has been announced by the governing bodies of horse racing in France seems to be detailed enough that the government may allow it to proceed. Horse racing is also different from many other sports in that it isn’t a full-contact sport and, as such, the base risk of transmission is far lower than for football, for example.