LaLiga Q&A: How Spanish football plans to resume season amid coronavirus pandemic
Keegan Pierce, the LaLiga Global Delegate for the UK and Ireland, explains to SSN's Paul Gilmour how testing will work in Spain's top flight
By Paul Gilmour, Sky Sports News
Last Updated: 07/05/20 8:23pm
On Saturday, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he expects LaLiga to resume "soon" behind closed doors, with players returning to training this week.
Here, Sky Sports News reporter Paul Gilmour gets more details from LaLiga representative Keegan Pierce about Spanish football's plans to return after the country's strict lockdown measures were eased...
What can you tell us about LaLiga's plans to return?
"The most important thing to keep in mind is that LaLiga is looking to resume the rest of its season in coordination with the Spanish government, which announced just last week a phased process towards what they describe as the return to new normal for everyday life in Spain.
"As part of this scaled approach to the return to the new normal, Spain is looking to incorporate different levels of economic activity and sport is one of them. So, LaLiga, together with clubs and medical professionals, and in coordination with the health ministry and other government officials in Spain, have been coordinating very closely a series of protocols that allow football to resume while minimising the risk for players and participants."
How will this work?
"You will have seen images this week of a number of LaLiga players returning to their training centres. This is part of an initial phase whereby all participants within squads are getting tested and making sure we know who may potentially have the infection or who may have already gone through a period of infection, and therefore potentially have immunity.
"From that point, that's when players can begin to work individually. This is something that's going to be taking place over the course of the next four weeks as we sort of transition from an initial testing phase to a phase whereby players will be doing individual work while still respecting social distancing.
"You've seen the images of the players wearing masks, wearing gloves as they arrive at their training centres, and then eventually we would phase after this four-week period to a moment in which players could begin working in group sessions."
What happens if a player tests positive during season resumption?
"We're really looking to go through this process step by step and obviously the first step is to make sure that we've got players back at their training centres and going about their individual work, but the core of the protocols account for that, and they account for the isolation that's required when a player is infected.
"You're going to have some elements of players working in different groups within a squad to ensure that the contact is minimised, again in line with the same social distancing guidelines that are being put forth by the Spanish government.
"We understand that often in football, you need to take things match by match, and we think that this circumstance certainly needs to be taken step by step. It's very easy for people to begin to imagine what matches would look like, what circumstances would like if the league eventually resumes. We certainly would love to see LaLiga resuming by the month of June, but we want to make sure that we're successfully implementing this first phase in order to move forward."
Health is more important, but what happens if a club loses a key player to a positive coronavirus test during the season resumption?
"I really wouldn't want to speculate about what the actual dynamic of the season looks like. It's about getting back to this new normal. And doing it step by step together with the government officials, but also with everybody else's return to regular economic activity within Spanish society."
No consistency across all European leagues?
"You know, again this is an unprecedented situation and every league is needing to make its own decisions, and obviously it needs to make them in close coordination with health authorities and with governments while recognising the situation on the ground in every country.
"You know in the case of LaLiga we've been actively sharing our protocols as they've been developed, not only within our key stakeholders, but also governments and clubs so they can review the information we've been working on.
"We've also had the opportunity to be sharing it with sporting bodies around the world, including sporting bodies within European football, because we really do feel that this is a sector that makes important contributions to societies around the world, and that it's important that we make our best efforts in a safe way to be able to get the professional sporting industry and football in particular back into activity."
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"You know, one of the things that we all love about football is the competitiveness and the passion between supporters, between players, between people who love their clubs. And one of the exciting prospects of resuming LaLiga and resuming professional football in general, is to see some of those questions answered, to see title races, to figure out who finishes in the top half and the bottom half of the table, important derby games that are still yet to be played.
"So I think we're just looking forward to the talk once again being about the competition while understanding that we have a very important road ahead of us, and that we need to continue to take this in a step by step fashion."
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"This is a new circumstance for everybody and it's perfectly normal that participants in society and in football feel concerned, maybe even anxious about what it means for them to get back to normal economic activity. We've been working really hard to ensure that football can come back in a gradual and safe way.
"The goal here is that by the time we've gotten through this return to activity, that playing professional football will be as safe or safer than taking a trip to your local supermarket or going to the chemists on the high street, and really, we want to make sure that this is a process that ensures the safety and safeguards all those concerns that players and staff may have."
If paramedics are on site, and testing kits are available for clubs, is that not taking them away from wider society?
"I think one of the important things in this has been our close coordination with the government and with health officials. And that's why it's so important for leagues to be in constant communication with key governmental experts and stakeholders, because it's only with their guidance that you can roll out a plan that is feasible.
"That gives the opportunity for you to be using the proper resources to bring an industry like football back, while also being sensitive to the wider situation in a country."
What are the medical experts saying?
"All of our protocols have been developed in close coordination with medical experts at the club level, certainly in coordination with the health ministry in Spain as well. We would not be putting forward to our main stakeholders these protocols, if we did not feel confident that they were medically sound and that they minimise the risk for all the participants in Spanish football."