How Has COVID-19 Impacted Football in Europe?
In the third and final part of this series: Sevilla director of football Monchi shares his expert insight on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected football in Europe, as well as sharing ideas on how leagues could resume play again.
Football leagues around the world are on hold while the precautions surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are in place — but football and scouting simply cannot stop. Even during this period of social distancing, every day counts, because football – and especially the transfer market – never sleeps.
How could the big leagues plan for a return to football?
What the true impact of Covid-19 will be on clubs and leagues is the ‘million-dollar question’. Monchi theorises that a conservative approach in the short term may be the most viable. “All the big leagues are trying to find the safest plan, clearly, as safety and health have to be the most important parameters,” explains Monchi. “Finding a way to restart the championships in order to minimize the short term impact. But of course, it will have an impact, and we’ll have to start all over again, trying to understand this new model, this world, in another way. Because things are going to change, they surely will, especially in the short and medium-term.”
But what of money? However conservative and potentially safe a restart to football strategy might be, football is driven in a big way by finances and any plan must take this into account. Monchi’s insight is that we must work as a collective, rather than opposing teams. “The economic impact will be huge,” said Monchi. “And how can we face it? I think that there needs to be a collective strategy. At this moment, in my opinion, we all need to take our shirt off and wear a communal shirt. And go all in the same direction. And when I say all, I mean the Spanish clubs, the Italian clubs, the French clubs. I mean, we need to find collective strategies on a global level. We have to face this crisis collectively, if we will do it individually, it will be hard to win this crisis.”
The scouting strategy at Sevilla during Covid-19
With scouts unable to travel to games live, Sevilla are using online scouting platforms to keep on top of targets, with football set to eventually return, and crucially, the summer transfer window on the horizon. “How are we working with Covid-19? Well, we are probably among the less affected areas, as smart working allows us to work at 100% almost all the time,” said Monchi. “I just ended a meeting with club management to analyse the last positions that we still had to analyse – wingers and strikers. Basically, the work is the same as always. In the phase in which we are now, April and May, scouts are finishing selecting those players that we’ve been watching all year long, and with a platform like Wyscout as a travelling companion, it’s not hard at all.”
A roadmap of how football could restart in Spain
As Monchi explains to us, football isn’t just about 11v11, there are also players, managers, physios, kit men, masseurs, the stadium’s staff and security, referees. The first parameter has to be health and Spain’s outline for a gradual return to football is an interesting one.
“In the first week of May, individual training has restarted, basically what players were already doing at their homes, but at the training centres, with massive, strong and well-made safety measures and protocols,” explains Monchi.
“As far as I know of the Spanish league, I assume that if everything goes well for these two weeks, then group training will resume – group, not team training – that are groups of eight that work isolated. This will last till the end of May and there will be a final phase of collective training, that’s the training that we are used to, that I think will last until the 10th-12th of June. Then, if nothing happened and, crossing fingers, nothing tragic, I think that the leagues will restart.”