16 May 2020 – Uncertainty swirls as to whether Serie A can really return to action as Italian football bosses hope on 13 June after a two-month coronavirus suspension.
Behind the united front, Italy’s 20 top-flight clubs have very different interests while Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora has been blowing hot and cold.
Meanwhile, the players may be back in individual training but are themselves divided in the face of a very strict protocol required for group sessions which begin on 18 May.
Here AFP sport looks at the key questions over a return to ‘Calcio’ in football-mad Italy:
What is the stumbling block?
Lega Serie A announced on Wednesday that 13 June was the date they hoped to resume the championship, with expectations boosted the following day when the influential president of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) Giovanni Malago declared he was “99 percent” certain it would restart.
But the optimism only lasted a few hours.
On Thursday evening, a press release from the League and then another from the professional players’ union (AIC) made it clear that the resumption of collective training, scheduled for Monday, remains very uncertain.
Many clubs consider that the health protocol, painstakingly drawn up by the Italian football federation (FIGC) following recommendations of the government’s Technical and Scientific Committee, is impossible to enforce.
Two points are proving particularly problematic.
The first concerns the logistical difficulties for clubs to try and organise a two-week group training period from next Monday.
Players would theoretically have to practice together, then eat and sleep at the training centre or a hotel entirely available to the team to avoid any risk of contagion.
Many clubs do not have these facilities.
The second, concerns the government insistence on quarantine for the entire team and staff, in the event of a positive test. Italian clubs favour the German model, where only the infected person is quarantined.
Who is for, who against?
On Friday, the FIGC and Liga Serie A met and prepared new proposals to submit to Italy’s ministers for sport and health. But the common front that the world of Italian football had managed to present in difficult discussions with the government seems to have cracked. According to all the sports media, Inter Milan are at the forefront of the “revolt”. Others followed, such as AC Milan, Atalanta, Napoli, Fiorentina, Sampdoria and Genoa. In total, more than half of all Serie A clubs would be opposed to the idea of training next Monday without more guarantees.
Some, especially those at the bottom of the table, may have more to gain with a season definitively stopped. Others, like Lazio, are still pushing for a return. The Roman club are second, just one point behind Juventus when football was suspended on March 9 and firmly believe in their chances of a first title in two decades.
According to the Corriere della Sera, the side from the capital has even been organising three-on-three matches in training for several days while the current protocol only allows individual sessions.
The government’s position?
The government, for its part, has been sticking to a cautious line and a process in stages – individual training from 4 May, group training from 18 May and day-to-day assessment of the health situation in Italy where nearly 32 000 have died.
For a long time very sceptical about the resumption of the championship, Sports Minister Spadafora, whose relationship has been cool with football bosses, has seemed more open to a return in recent days.
But at the end of the day, the ball should end up at the feet of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, a football fan.
Italian football bosses, who have consistently warned of the considerable economic damage of ending the season early, are due to meet Conte next week, on a date which is not yet confirmed.