19 May 2020 – France was right to end its football season, said the country’s sports minister on Monday, casting doubt on the wisdom of restarting the Bundesliga, despite the coronavirus pandemic, at the weekend.
“It was important for me to give primacy to the health and the psychological well-being of athletes over economic considerations, which, indeed, in other countries, have taken precedence,” said Roxana Maracineanu on a visit to the French high performance institute (INSEP) on the outskirts of Paris.
While the French league season has been declared over with Paris Saint-Germain champions, the Bundesliga resumed on Saturday, behind closed doors.
“Each country was affected differently” by Covid-19, said Maracineanu, who also pointed to the German federal system in which “the regions make their own decisions, whether it’s to reopen schools or resume sport.”
While “the stakes are not the same in Germany and France”, the minister questioned “the notion of fairness” in the event of the resumption of European competitions, particularly the Champions League, where PSG have reached the last eight and Lyon hold a 1-0 lead over Juventus in a last 16 tie.
“There are some who have chosen to resume their championships, because, without doubt, and I know this from having discussed it with my counterparts from the major European footballing countries, it was economic issues that were at stake,” she insisted.
“I think that in the period we are living through, a decision that was guided by a concern for health and the health aspect cannot be called into question,” she added.
The Ligue 1 decision has caused an outcry among some in football. Lyon’s president Jean-Michel Aulas, whose club was out of the European places when play was halted, has launched two legal actions.
Maracineanu said the pause could have been an opportunity for sport to reflect.
“We could have taken advantage of this moment to ask ourselves questions other than simply ‘am I first, second or third?'”