The sport may have returned to the locker room for several weeks, it has not yet lost everything. Since the start of containment, many players, coaches, presidents, leaders have competed in ingenuity to propose plans B, even C, so that the competitions end despite everything. We have identified ten, more or less serious.
Resume in May and finish the season this summer
This is, to date, the most common and preferred hypothesis by the various national federations, with wishes for more or less long deadlines. A posture supported Thursday by UEFA (the European football federation), which considers “Premature and not justified” any decision by a national league to permanently discontinue its championship. The body threatens to deprive the protesters (Belgium, who shot the arrow) of European cups in 2020-2021. In France, the Professional Football League has announced “The priority objective to end the season no later than June 30, 2020 or possibly July 15”, in a press release dated March 23. All at the frantic pace of two days a week.
Shorten the championships
Failing to be able to fit absolutely all the remaining matches, some championships are thinking of reducing their number. The NBA, for example, where the marathon of 82 regular season games could be reduced to 70. Ditto for the playoffs: with perhaps series to the best of three games, and not more of the seven as since 2003. An option however very complicated to set up all sports combined, because of concerns for sports equity (on which criteria would we suppress certain matches and not others) but also financial (can such a solution be economically viable for leagues, clubs and other sponsors, not forgetting TV rights contracts?)
Shift the next recovery to winter 2021
What if the 2020-2021 financial year didn’t start until next February? This is the suggestion made by Jean-Pierre Rivière, president of the Nice football club. In order to be able to calmly complete the competitions in progress in the fall, instead of late May-early June, if the confinement continues. This would make the season a part of the calendar year. A script approved by André Villas-Boas, OM coach, in an interview with RMC Sport. “We are starting to think that the most viable thing is to finish the season in November-December. And from 2021, start to chain with a calendar calendar. And like that, we arrive in 2022 at the World Cup in Qatar [du 21 novembre au 18 décembre] at the end of the championships. “
Remove the winter break
Will tennis, football, basketball, handball, rugby take place exceptionally at the rhythm of the winter sports season? This is the other option under study, more drastic than the previous one. It would allow the federations to complete their respective championships at the latest in September, to leave time for vacation and preparation for the next exercise – essential for the pros – before re-attacking in October-November for… nine months non-stop.
Make “Playoffs” and “Final Four”
Usual in several sports (Euroleague basketball, Handball Champions League), the idea of organizing “Final Eight” or “Final Four” (tournament with eight or four knockout teams) is starting to take hold, in particular for football. Such a scenario would mainly concern cups like the Champions League or the Europa League, and would lighten the overloaded calendar of clubs. In basketball, FIBA Europe has just taken action and will complete its Champions League in the form of a Final Eight in a location to be defined, from September 30 to October 4 … probably with the staff for next season.
Two scenarios with similar contours are being studied for the Top 14 rugby. “Cup 14”: the first two (Union Bordeaux-Bègles and Lyon) are automatically qualified for the quarter-finals, played in a round-trip match, while the 12 other clubs compete in play-offs back, before a Final Four at the end on June 26. Or the playoff formula: the first eight are divided into two pools of four (round-trip matches), before the semi-finals and a final on a dry match.
Play the rest of the meetings in a unique and closed place
Among the first major leagues to suspend its season, the NBA would consider this option, inspired by the recent attempt by the CBA (the Chinese basketball league) to complete all of the 2019-2020 matches in two cities across the country. To host the remaining 24 regular season games, the ESPN chain quotes a Las Vegas hotel-casino, a university in the Midwest (region still spared by the Covid-19), or even … the Bahamas, no more no less. Such a device would imply the requisition of a room but also of infrastructures allowing players to eat, sleep and train without risk of contamination. A kind of Olympic village “made in NBA” under quarantine. “I’m not going to embark on such shit, it will be without me”, however, immediately cooled Lebron James, one of the most influential players in the league, on the podcast Road Trippin.
Merge certain events
Italian cyclist Matteo Trentin launched the idea last week: merge the Giro – already canceled – with the Tour de France and Vuelta, the other two major three-week road races of the season. “Why not organize a single Grand Tour this year? Departure to Rome, via Madrid, arrival in Paris. […] Normal stroke length. 21 stages, 7 in France, 7 in Italy, 7 in Spain, 2 days of rest. ”
Problem: this solution, which would imply that the Tour and the Giro get along, can a priori only concern the world of cycling, or almost. It would also be possible for the four golf majors (the Augusta Masters and the PGA championship have already been postponed, the US Open is in the process of being) which could aggregate and form a sort of royal major. It remains to determine the format (a 72-hole course at a single location?) But it is impossible, for example, to transpose the device for the remaining Grand Slam tennis tournaments. The Wimbledon organizers announced on Wednesday that they were simply canceling the 2020 edition.
Continue as 2.0
The sports world is at a standstill, and yet the Tour of Switzerland will take place … in virtual reality. On the program of the event (from April 22 to 26): a dozen World Tour teams united via the Velon group (three riders per formation) and a series of five individual races on training bikes connected to a platform ( Rouvy), lasting one hour each, on routes appearing on the original route. And all the technology that goes with it: runners represented by 3D avatars, data mixing speed, power and cadence displayed in real time, webcams… A project validated by the Australian runner Michael Matthews (Sunweb), cited by the promoters of the event : “It’s a really cool way for us to interact with our fans and run when standard racing isn’t possible. It gives us motivation when everything else is so uncertain at the moment. ” The Tour of Flanders is also stuck in this niche, with a virtual race involving 13 cyclists, announced Thursday the Belgian chain Sporza, broadcaster of the event. Among them, several Belgian cadors (Evenepoel, Van Avermaet, Van Aert).
Identical initiative in sailing: more than 100,000 internet users took off on a virtual deckchair between La Rochelle and Curaçao for a 4,000-mile (7,400 km) crossing, with professional sailors such as Franck Cammas, Armel Le Cléac’h, Jérémie Beyou or Samantha Davies at the helm of their 2.0 multihull.
End the season… on console
When there is no more sport, there is e-sport. And the pool of professional athletes is full of specialists in the field. We thus lend great talents to the Fifa game to Valentin Rongier, Umut Bozok or Martin Terrier. So why not simulate the end of the season with controllers in hand? In Spain, an “e-Liga” has emerged, in the form of a one on one on Fifa, each team (except Barcelona and Mallorca, licensed under the PES game) being represented by one of its players.
The idea holds true for F1: the first Grand Prix, canceled, gave way to online races with some drivers of the category at the controls, confronted with big names of other sports and cadors of the simulation game Sim Racing. The PlayStation version of the Australian Grand Prix brought together around 400,000 Internet users on March 15.
The NBA, it has just resumed … on 2K20: a tournament between several players of the Grand League, called “Players-Only” began Friday over ten days, and will even be broadcast on ESPN. Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz, cured of the coronavirus) and Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets) are notably in the game.
In other words: pretend nothing was wrong, and keep playing. Because as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says, twenty-six years at the head of the country: “Better to die with dignity than to live on your knees.” Last Saturday, the country’s flagship club Bate Borisov bowed against Slavia Mazyr in a Vysshaya Liga (the Belarusian league) which has just resumed, despite the appearance of the Covid-19. Lukashenko, meanwhile, was watching a hockey game … But the latest news, supporters are planning to boycott the games.