Russia: the resumption of the football championship, to stand out against the background of Europe (France Info, France)

Several countries are cautiously beginning to return to football. After Germany (where it occurred in mid may) decision on the resumption of the championship adopted in other States, particularly in Italy, England and Spain (all of them are aimed in June). By the same logic 21 Jun resume games of the Russian Premier League. This will be introduced sanitary Protocol to fight the spread of the epidemic of the coronavirus. In particular will be strengthened hygienic measures among staff, players and referees will be held regularly tests the stadiums will be divided into areas, and medical examination will be performed daily.

The third country by number of infected

Anyway, the news of the resumption of the championship raises questions. Russia follows the example of European countries, but in Germany, Italy and Spain, the peak of the epidemic passed, and received in recent weeks, the figures indicate a sharp decline in the incidence that promises light at the end of the tunnel.

In Russia, the wave of the epidemic came after Europe, and the number of new cases is still increasing, therefore the country went on this indicator in third place in the world. On Thursday the number of confirmed cases since the epidemic began was 441 108. The number of deaths exceeded 5,000 people, according to official figures, which, as some believe, lower than the real one. “The declared number of deaths does not correspond to reality, because in Russia there is a big lack of funds, in particular tests, not in Moscow or Saint Petersburg, and in the poorest regions like Dagestan. I’m willing to bet that the exact numbers come much later or do not come, as often happens in modern Russia”, — said Luke Aubin (Aubin Lukas), a specialist in geopolitics, Russia and sport.

To stand out against the background of Europe

Unlike Germany, Spain, England and Italy, which decided to hold matches behind closed doors, Russia said that he was going to fill the stadiums by 10%. It is worth noting that initially it was planned to play matches without spectators. “The CPS has agreed the opportunity to play with the audience. This initiative was made by the clubs and RPL. At the initial stage of the stadiums will be admitted in the audience of 10% of the seats, this is a safe number of fans in compliance with all precautionary measures,” — said in a press release from the RFU.

“It makes no sense to open stadiums for 10% of the capacity. This is window dressing and PR, — said the expert on sports geopolitics Jean-Baptiste Gegan. — Russia wants to differentiate itself from Europe and become one of the first countries where they will begin to accept visitors, while the rest chose the option of closed doors”.

In any case, with this news Russia has very little risk, and the lack of details regarding the implementation of the plans will allow authorities, if necessary, adjust them. “They chose a strategy that, in fact, nothing obliges them, but has a strong media effect,” adds Jean-Baptiste Gegan. Because, if to judge objectively, the opening of the stadium by 10% “will cost more in terms of protection of employees and Protocol than keeping them closed to the public. This is not to mention the atmosphere…”

Demonstration of renewal of life

Although, as in other decisions on the resumption of the Championships, a significant role was played by economic considerations, they were not here the first factor. The return of the public is to show on the international stage that Russia is out of the pandemic coronavirus with a proudly raised head. “If you show Europe that we can resume the championship, especially with the audience that are not in Germany, England and Italy, although you are among the leaders in the number of infections, you will demonstrate the ability of the Russian state to cope with the crisis, says Jean-Baptiste Gegan. Even if you lie, no one will check”.

Luke Aubin agree with this point of view: “Resuming the championship in parallel with other European countries, the Russian government wants to show international and national level that the epidemic has stabilized and that Russia can return to a normal life, to show themselves modern and able to cope with the crisis country. And to demonstrate that football could resume as before.” It should be noted that football is not the most popular sport in the country: he is clearly inferior to hockey. “It’s an important moment, because football plays a big role abroad in Europe. Talking about how to attract attention from the outside”, explains Jean-Baptiste Gegan.

Why Russia initially chose closed matches, but then changed position? “Hard to say, admits surprised by this change of strategy Luke Aubin. — I think that this championship is one of the most risky in terms of the epidemic. The risk is actually very big, because the clubs are pretty far from each other on Russian territory. For example, the trip to Moscow of players from the Urals can contribute to the emergence of a new epidemiological outbreak, especially with spectators in the stadiums, even if there will be only 10%. I think it’s still dangerous.”

“The minority has chosen for the most”

The decision to resume the championship was decided with three friends to the government authorities: the Ministry of sport, the RFU and the CPS. “It’s more interesting that the RFU headed by Alexander Dyukov, General Director of “Gazprom” and the President Petersburg “Zenith”, which is the favorite club of Vladimir Putin and was one of four teams, speaking for the resumption of the championship. It turns out, a minority have chosen for the most” — says Luke Aubin. This decision has caused disputes about the recovery of the championship.

Disputes concerning foreign players who returned home in the beginning of the crisis: now they have to convince to come back. “These players face their club. They decided to come to Russia not because of the level of the game, and for financial reasons, for the high fees from the local oligarchs. There is no guarantee that they will agree to come back, and clubs fear that they will be at a disadvantage,” notes Luke Aubin.

In any case, clubs will have to make this decision. “The main catch is that all this is not in the interests of clubs and players, as epidemiological threat will not go away,” adds Luke Aubin. The news of the resumption of games came to mind not all the clubs: many are still against it. “When may 15 there was news about the resumption of the championship, this was against 12 of the 16 Premier League clubs. That is, it is the decision truly politicized.”

A wide field for maneuver

Anyway, until 21 June, you can still change. First of all, in terms of viewers. “I’m still waiting for confirmation: there will indeed be 10% of the fans?” — asks Luke Aubin. If so, compliance with the public action? Data of the authorities is very vague, and accurate information about their implementation also is not, says Carol gómez, from the Institute of strategic and international studies: “How they will cope with the championship and sanitary measures? And what decision will be made, if on the first or second day among the players and staff there new infections?”

In her opinion, it is possible that the championship will not end, no matter what: “I am very cautious about the resume and do not believe that all must be brought to an end. Remember how fast was stopped in March the series of competitions. I think these competitions can again be quickly exhausted if there will be many new cases and the sanitary situation again worsen”. The fact that the resumption “is carried out gradually while retaining the ability to rollback all back.” All will become clearer in the coming weeks, because the special Russian case more clearly declare itself.