ROME: The confused state of European football about an eventual resumption of league action was laid bare over the weekend with Italy being given a glimpse of light just as Spanish hopes were being dashed.

Elsewhere Poland looked to restart behind closed doors at the end of May while Belgian clubs hinted that the league may not ratify the earlier decision to shut down after the example of neighbouring Netherlands.

In Italy Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave the go-ahead for professional teams to start training again in May following the coronavirus pandemic though he did not set a date for a Serie A restart.

Announcing measures to ease the lockdown during a televised address to the country, he said individual training could start on May 4, when players would still have to respect social distancing rules, and that team training could begin on May 18. Serie A has been suspended since March 9.

Conte said sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora would work “intensively” with scientists and sports leaders to ensure training was safe.

Safety priority
He added: “Then we will try to see if they can continue with the championships that are suspended. We will only reach this conclusion if it can be guaranteed that it is safe. We don’t want our athletes to get sick.

“I’m passionate for football. Like many Italians, I initially found it strange that the championship could be interrupted or suspended but I think that even the most ardent fan understands that there wasn’t an alternative.”

The Italian federation has ordered that, before a resumption of training, each club should select a group of players, technical staff, doctors and physiotherapists who will be tested and then isolated in a summer-style training camp.

There are also plans to donate five COVID test-kits for each kit used by clubs to avoid the criticism that football is taking away much-needed resources from other areas.

There are 12 rounds of matches still to play in Serie A plus a number of outstanding games from previous rounds. Title holders Juventus are one point clear of Lazio at the top.

Spanish warning

In Spain Health Minister Salvador Illa has cautioned that LaLiga is unlikely to return until at least the summer.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has been bullish about the need to complete the campaign in order to avoid collective losses of up to €1bn and has given three potential re-start dates: May 29, June 7 or June 28.

The league has produced a protocol with strict guidelines for clubs to follow when training resumes while Spain’s sports ministry has also set out a plan for a return to action in closed stadiums to boost the local economy.

But in Sunday’s daily coronavirus briefing, Illa said: “I cannot say now if professional football will be able to restart before the summer, it would be imprudent of me.

“There is an order from the health ministry which is in place for all types of groups, including professional football. They have to put whatever type of diagnostic tests they have at the disposition of the regional governments.

“We are going to see how things evolve before we decide how different professions will resume activities. Things will not be like they were before. Until we get a vaccine we’re going to have to learn to live with this virus which I insist is dangerous and we cannot afford to show it a lack of respect.”

Elsewhere Belgium’s Pro League, who meet on Monday for the first time since a decision to cancel the rest of this season, is expected to put off formal ratification of that decision, leaving the door open for a possible resumption of the campaign.

Poland’s professional football league said it intends to re-start matches on May 29 and complete the season by July 19 after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki gave the go ahead on Saturday for games to be played without spectators.