Never before had we faced a greater challenge than the one raised by the COVID-19. Never before had we studied or proposed that a situation like the one at stake could happen and yet, here we are.
I would like to use this document to outline the complications, issues and uncertainties that are going to affect the “king of sports” at a European level to a greater or a lesser extent, and I would like to take this opportunity to think about the need we have to find solutions to a crisis that we all want to end.
First of all, the shutdown of competitions at European and national level -which is clearly necessary to stop the attacks of this particular virus- has generated an unprecedent pressure on the European football calendar in which the postponement of the UEFA Euro 2020 has been crucial in order to give the calendar a necessary “breath” .
The reason, besides other effects that I will analyse later, should be found in our European model of sport, which rewards sporting success and “punishes” lack of it. Unlike the closed league system , our model suffers from the uncertainty of knowing who will be promoted or relegated at national level and who will be playing on the European competitions the next season.
The first problem presents regulatory challenges because most national or international football rules have not provided for a situation like the current one . At this point we are witnessing new decisions such as the cancellation of the English non-professional leagues, the cancellation of all the training football competitions in Portugal or the desire to finish all the competitions that the president of the RFEF, Mr. Luis Rubiales, has stated. The only certain thing is the different future scenarios that new decisions, day by day, are going to present, nationally and internationally .
Even so, if we continue to observe the competitive problems, we can see that a long shutdown will cause the international calendar itself to become overloaded, which could lead to the elimination of dates, the modification of competitions or the adjustment of a balance that, at present, seems to be extremely delicate in the world of football .
Furthermore, this scenario of alteration of national and international calendars will affect the preparation and health of athletes, who may be forced to carry out a brief pre-season to alleviate the consequences of the current lock-down. At this point, the advice and help of all those professionals with extensive knowledge in the field will be essential to offer a rapid and effective solution.
We will also find problems at a contractual level with the players, as many of them finish their respective contracts on a date known by all, June 30th. Hence the efforts being made by UEFA, European Leagues, ECA or FIFPRO to set up a schedule that ends up taking dates from the Euro 2020 and avoid extending competitions beyond. There are also rumours of a possible change in the transfer market made by FIFA, including a merger of the traditional transfer windows , which I believe is a titanic effort to match the affected calendar .
Secondly, if we look at the economic implications of the shutdown, without being exhaustive, we should observe that the high dependence on television broadcast revenues has meant that many football leaders do not contemplate the possibility of terminating the competitions. So much so that the president of La Liga himself, Mr. Javier Tebas, insists on the work being done to coordinate with UEFA and numerous leagues, in order to complete the season calendar and be able to fulfil the television contracts, avoiding the ruin of many teams, which would face their sustainability threatened in short term. In addition to this effect, we must consider that the lack of income from the so-called match day and a significant reduction in purely commercial income (sponsorship, merchandising, tours, etc.) have created a complex future where the desired resumption of competitions will require strategic plans and innovative ideas to recover all the lost ground.
These are some readings, but not the only ones, we can also talk about an impact on the formative development of the grassroots football, the sports tourism (let’s not forget that many clubs in Europe are highly effective tourist promoters of their cities), the situation of the subscribers, the technological and logistic problems and a whole lot of implications that raise a very complex future.
At this point one may, unsurprisingly, feel tempted to give up due to the present, overwhelming situation, as this crisis questions everything that has been raised and studied before. However, I also believe that, like the athletes that we all idolize, it is time not to resign ourselves but to fight for new solutions.
This difficult task and the objective of returning to normality in football will not be exclusive to those who are already part of the industry, because it is now that we need each other more than ever. We need those who are and those who dream of being part of this particular industry. It is now that we must provide the vision, the knowledge, and above all, the enthusiasm, so that we can return to normality. Solutions that must come from every field of knowledge let us not forget that football has become an ultra-specialised industry that needs the help of economists, lawyers, doctors, publicists, managers, etc. who together provide ideas and collaborate to solve the complex problem faced by European football.
That is why I would like to do my bit and come up with a proposal. In view of the high level of litigation that will arise as a result of the conflicts that we are likely to see in football, I believe that it is time to promote and reinforce the sports mediation, regardless of whether we are talking about mediation at an international or national level or whether it is promoted from the public or private sphere. It is time to commit to an alternative dispute resolution mechanism that prioritizes a balanced relationship between the parties, which is based on confidentiality and an effective communication environment, guaranteed by a neutral and independent professional (the mediator), and oriented to the achievement of agreements reached by the parties themselves. These agreements have proven to be highly durable and will serve to find quick and consensual solutions to a possible saturation of traditional systems of conflict resolution.
And you, dear reader, what do you propose?
 As the prestigious lawyer Don Juan de Dios Crespo commented in an interview with Agencia EFE on March 21.
 We cannot ignore the fact that these models are also facing a critical situation, in view of the loss of important income. On March 14, The New York Times presented an article entitled “The Financial Blow of the Coronavirus on Sports” which showed, already at that time, a high level of concern.
 For example, the basis of state-wide competitions (2019-2020 season) of the RFEF or UEFA’s own regulations.
 See the press release of 27 March from the Portuguese Football Federation.
 The latest news indicates that UEFA is handling three scenarios including the possibility of not finishing the season.
 We cannot forget that until recently the competitive tensions between the most important national leagues and UEFA due to the calendar dates were a current issue.
 See the agreement reached on 17 March entitled “Resolution of the European football family on a coordinated response to the impact of the COVID-19 on competitions”.
 According to the Italian sports newspaper Tuttosport with the headline “Calciomercato lungo quattro mesi: arriva la conferma della Fifa.”
 I do not just mean the European calendar, but the entire world football calendar.
Carlos Marroquín Romera
Alumni of the International Master in Sports Law, LLM