SPANISH LA LIGA TO TEST ALL PLAYERS FOR CORONAVIRUS

The president of the Spanish football federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales, has attacked the league’s plan to carry out coronavirus tests at every first and second division club as “irresponsible” when there are others who need to be tested more urgently amid a health crisis.

He has also insisted that the Spanish domestic season must be completed, even if it means going beyond the proposed final date of June 30, and that playing games behind closed doors is a “last resort”.

There have been 11,178 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Spain and as of Tuesday, 491 people were known to have died of the disease.

Various teams have tested players for the virus, including Valencia, who said on Monday (March 16) that 35 per cent of their first-team squad and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus but were asymptomatic.

They include defenders Ezequiel Garay, José Luis Gayà and Eliaquim Mangala.

Espanyol have said six of their players have tested positive. “We had confirmation this afternoon that six members of the first team and the technical staff of RCD Espanyol de Barcelona have returned positive results for Covid-19 tests carried out during the last hours,” the club said in a statement on Tuesday.

“All of them are suffering from mild symptoms and they are complying with the medical recommendations.”

Every club is currently on lockdown with training suspended and players sent home.

Elche forward Jonathas is the one confirmed case among the second division clubs so far.

Some clubs have already carried out tests and La Liga had planned to extend that facility to every club in the top two tiers – 42 in total.

The league is keen to monitor the situation with the hope of restarting the competition by the first weekend of May, if not before. Officially, La Liga has postponed two weekends of games, starting last Friday.

“I think it is irresponsible when there are patients with much more at stake than a competition, with life itself (at stake),” Rubiales said. “It is not appropriate to be using tests (at clubs) when there are people who need tests. It fails to see reality.

“We are all confined to home; it doesn’t make any difference if you have been infected or not. It’s the same outcome (isolation). And if someone does have severe symptoms, that’s the person who needs the test. Not a footballer. He is going to be isolated (anyway).

“The authorities have said this – if anyone has a test, masks, gloves, hand them over. Hospitals are running out.

“There’s someone sending tests to (clubs) – that’s a lack of solidarity, it could even be illegal. He should be ashamed. We don’t want that, and it’s anti-patriotic.

“When all this is over, when fewer people need it, then maybe we will consider (testing) players at our clubs (from Segunda B level down) but for now, tests have to be for those that need it. We all have to lend a hand.”

Rubiales also said that he had put the federation’s facilities, including the residency at its Las Rozas HQ, at the disposal of the government. He rather pointedly called upon the league to do the same, saying that clubs have facilities and resources that could be useful.

He also criticised the league’s president Javier Tebas, with whom he is engaged in a bitter and ongoing battle, for claiming that the failure to finish the league season could cost €678 million (£1.06 billion).

Rubiales suggested it was negligent for La Liga not to be insured against such losses, and promised the country’s smaller clubs that depend on RFEF subsidies that they would receive every cent.

He also noted that the league was pushing to complete the season by June 30, come what may. “Some put money before health,” he said.

By contrast, the RFEF president said completing the season by that date was the aim, but that it was not “an insurmountable wall”.

“There is no date,” he said, describing the plan as one of “extending the season as long as is necessary”, and ruled out just deciding a title winner without the games being played.

Barcelona, the current league leaders, will not be handed the title, and nor should European positions be decided off the pitch.

“It would a tremendous injustice not to finish the season. We are not going to declare it void, we want to finish it,” he said.

Asked what Spain would do if Uefa demanded that there was a cut-off to determine next year’s European positions before the league had been completed, Rubiales said he would ask Uefa what criteria to apply.

He added that the Copa del Rey final between Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad would be played, but he did not know when.

“We don’t even know when competition will restart,” Rubiales said. “We are in the hands of what the health authorities say. We can’t guess the future.”

Guardian (UK), Reuters