Czech Republic among first countries to bring back top flight football

Photo: ČTK/Radek Petrášek

The Czech Republic will soon become one of the first countries in the world to bring back professional football, after a decision taken by clubs this week. The top flight season will resume in 10 days’ time and should conclude in mid-July, though stadiums will remain empty.

Dušan Svoboda, photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
The Covid-19 epidemic brought the Czech football league to a complete halt in early March.

But things are now moving forward, after the country’s professional clubs voted on Tuesday to restart the top two divisions this month.

A game between Teplice and Liberec will get the ball rolling again in the Fortuna Liga on Saturday May 23.

Dušan Svoboda is the head of the country’s League Football Association.

“I think we will have no alternative but to live with these hygiene measures.

“I don’t say they will all be as strict as they are now, such as players having to travel together by bus, or not share rooms – hopefully these won’t last forever.

“But I can imagine many hygiene measures being here for a very long time.”

For the rest of this season at least, if a player or coaching staff member tests positive for Covid-19, they will be placed in isolation. State health authorities will decide on whether to place a whole team in quarantine – and could also do so for recent opponents. All games will be behind closed doors.

If 2019/2020 is not completed, there will be no champions and no clubs relegated.

Photo: ČTK/Radek Petrášek
The season has been extended beyond the normal cut-off of June 30. Players whose contracts run out then can sign short-term extensions. If they refuse to do so, they may not play for other clubs.

The season is now due to end on July 18, though it may be extended even to as late as August 2.

Football journalist Karel Häring says given the relatively low incidence of Covid-19 in the Czech Republic it was logical for clubs to push for a restart. But he would welcome more information about the practicalities.

“What I’ve found quite strange is that the leaders of the League Football Association didn’t explain properly in recent weeks how they want to do it.

“If I compare it with England and the Premier League, with Germany and the Bundesliga, when I have read articles there were so many details discussed.

“And I’ve missed that here in the Czech Republic.”

Obviously a lot of things can happen between now and the end of the season. Are you confident that this season will in fact be played out?

Karel Häring, photo: Ian Willoughby
“It’s a difficult question. I would need a crystal ball, because no-one can predict what will happen in the coming weeks.

“There is the possibility that one club could use it… for example, if there is a club which is near relegation, they could do some dodgy business around it and could find three members of their staff showing positive tests.

“I don’t know – it’s very difficult.

“But I hope that the season will be finished, even though I think it will be very difficult for players and for staff.

“Because they are not used to playing as often as is planned now.

“They don’t have the facilities, they don’t have so many masseurs and physios to keep all the players fresh.

“So there could be more players injured than usual.”