LaLiga president Javier Tebas has flagged up issues around stadium development, including for Real Madrid, as potential challenges to overcome for an extended domestic football season, adding that the cancellation of the 2019-20 campaign would leave the organisation with a loss of €1bn (£882.3m/$1.09bn).
Tebas, speaking at a wide-ranging press briefing with international media, spelled out the current thinking behind the resumption of the top tier of Spanish football amid COVID-19. On March 23, LaLiga and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said the suspension of domestic professional competitions would continue on an indefinite basis as the country continues to battle the pandemic.
LaLiga, which oversees the top two divisions, has since been one of the world’s most proactive sports bodies in engaging with fans during COVID-19. With Spain still in a state of emergency until at least April 26, Tebas said the season could resume either on May 29, June 7 or June 28, likely behind closed doors.
However, he also noted the challenges clubs would face, referring specifically to stadium improvement works scheduled for Real Madrid and Levante.
Tebas said: “You have to think that there are clubs that were planning to redevelop their stadiums in the summer and that it is very difficult for them to break contracts, such as for raising a roof, which are worth millions of euros. It is a circumstance that some will discover by force and they are going to have a difficult time using their stadium.”
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the home of Real Madrid, is currently being utilised as a hub for the supply and distribution of strategic medical supplies as part of the effort to combat COVID-19 in the capital. In May 2019, Real awarded Spanish building and infrastructure company FCC Construcción the contract to handle the redevelopment of the Bernabéu. Work started last summer and Real is targeting August 2022 for completion.
Spanish newspaper Diario AS, citing several sources, said Real believes the stadium work is under control, with all scenarios studied so that development can continue if the season is extended, with the advantage that if football returns, it is likely to be behind closed doors.
Meanwhile, Tebas has said the possibility that the season could be cancelled is not an option for LaLiga at present. He continued: “It is a hypothesis that we do not contemplate. We want to end. Probably behind closed doors. And it is curious… that the clubs that want to end the season now are the ones at the bottom of the league, those who fight not to be relegated.”
Tebas added: “Not finishing the 2019-20 season would bring a measurable loss of €1bn. If we finish behind closed doors, the economic damage will be €350m. If we could play with the public, the losses would still be €150m.”
Tebas said LaLiga believes it can finish the current season by August. “The last businesses that will return to normal are theatres, cinemas – events that people attend,” he added. “We are an industry like that too, but we can also restart in part without people because the fundamental part of our income comes from TV.
“So, it’s not a case of us getting special treatment; it’s that when we resume, we will be able to do so in a way that allows us to exploit part of our business. I believe this is our obligation and that of the government too as we’re talking about an industry that provides 1.37% of GDP and which directly and indirectly creates 180,000 jobs. We shouldn’t just look at this as players and teams; this is an industry.”