Ice hockey league suspended, football league to continue for at least two rounds

Photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek

A government prohibition on events in the Czech Republic attended by 100 or more people is naturally having a major impact on sports in the country. The organisers of the two biggest sports leagues, in football and ice hockey, are taking a different approach to the measure introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
The Czech Ice Hockey Association says it is unable to put on league games while also meeting the requirement that gatherings not exceed 100 people. It has therefore suspended all matches until March 29.

If the ban is lifted by then, the knockout stage of the top flight Extraliga will get underway the following day. In the opposite case, the 2019–2020 season will be declared over.

In view of the fact that the deputy minister of health says the ban on public gatherings will continue until the middle of April before being reassessed, the latter scenario would seem considerably more likely.

The Liberec White Tigers finished first in the regular season and the league’s management say they would be awarded the President’s Cup for being the best team over 52 rounds.

However, Liberec would not receive the T.G. Masaryk Cup, which goes to the winner of season-ending playoffs.

Soccer’s League Football Association has taken a different approach. It has decided to allow the next two rounds of the league in the top two divisions to be played behind closed doors.

An international break is planned for the end of March and the league’s management will meet then to take a fresh look at the situation.

The chairman of the League Football Association, Dušan Svoboda, said this was the least worst alternative at the present time.

Mr. Svoboda said the financial hit to clubs forced to play to empty stadiums would be far higher than those sustained by the Biathlon World Cup meeting in Nové město na Moravě. It was the first public event to face such restrictions in the Czech Republic in connection with the coronavirus.

Photo: ČTK/Vít Šimánek
There are six rounds remaining of the Czech football’s top flight Fortuna Liga. They are due to be followed by the awkwardly named “superstructure”, under which the table is divided into three groups in which teams face off to decide on final positions.

While cases of players going down with Covid-19 have been seen in Italy, this has not yet been reported in the Czech Republic. Dušan Svoboda says that if that happened normal rules would apply, with quarantined teams barred from playing games.

However, the present circumstances are very much uncharted territory and it remains to be seen what would happen in reality if one or more Czech first division clubs were in fact unable to take part in the competition.