Gabriele Gravina

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Juventus players, staff set to sacrifice up to $100M in wages

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Juventus players and coaches have agreed to forego pay for March, April, May, and June to the tune of approximately $100 million.

The Old Lady has been hit internally by coronavirus, with players Paulo Dybala, Blaise Matuidi, and Daniele Rugani testing positive for COVID-19.

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Italian football federation chief Gabriele Gravina has become a worldwide name during the COVID-19 crisis, and praised the move by Juve’s players and staff (via Football-Italia).

“The agreement reached by Juventus is an example for the whole system. I thank Giorgio Chiellini, his teammates and Maurizio Sarri because, in wake of the collaboration that the FIGC hopes to have in days, they placed general interests at the heart of their conversations with the club.

“Unity and solidarity in the world of football represent the first great response to the emergency we’re experiencing, and that risks becoming even more serious if we don’t resume playing soon. Only through the contribution of all the protagonists, each of them playing their part, will we make football stronger.”

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Italian sports leaders hopeful for early May return for Serie A

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Italy continues its battle with the coronavirus, but authorities are already planning for the rest of the Serie A season.

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Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora and federation president Gabriele Gravina have both spoken openly of a return during the first weekend in May.

It’s a bit audacious given the uncertainty of the disease’s run through the world, but it’s promising for us as people and sports fans to see someone putting a date on any semblance of normalcy.

Here’s Spadafora, from The Chronicle:

“I believe that Serie A can return on May 3. We will evaluate whether it’s played behind closed doors, or open to the public. This formula will then be added to international competitions, like the Champions League and Europa League.”

The conclusion to Serie A’s scudetto race will be interesting for once, as Lazio is a point back of Juventus with a dozen matches left each.

The sides were initially scheduled to meet on April 26.

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Coronavirus could see Serie A use playoff for scudetto, relegation places

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Serie A may not be able to properly conclude its season due to the coronavirus, and reports say Italian football president Gabriele Gravina has three alternatives.

One would be to call the season now in favor of Juventus, who has a one-point lead over Lazio and hosts the Roman side on April 26.

Another is a playoff system to determine the scudetto winners, European combatants, and relegated sides.

A third is to not award a champion, which would be a monumental statement.

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Here’s Gravina, via Football-Italia:

“We hope that the season can be concluded as planned, because if we do resume on April 3, there are certain windows to make up for these postponed games,” said Gravina. “I took it upon myself to launch the idea of play-offs and play-outs, helping to respect the values of sporting competition. It would involve the four top teams in the play-off for the Scudetto and the last four in the play-outs to decide relegation. The FIGC will then indicate to UEFA who will participate in the European competitions next season.”

Juventus, Lazio, Inter Milan, and Atalanta are currently first through fourth, while the bottom four are Genoa, Lecce, SPAL, and Brescia. The latter part is especially treacherous as SPAL and Brescia are well off Genoa and Lecce’s 25 points.

Games in Serie A are currently postponed. Juventus and Atalanta remain alive in the Champions League, while Inter Milan and Roma begin Europa League ties on Thursday.

Chelsea will visit Bayern Munich at an empty Allianz Arena for a Champions League second leg next week. Manchester United’s Europa League game at LASK in Austria will be played behind-closed-doors, and matches in Spain’s La Liga will be played in empty stadiums until early April.

The San Jose Earthquakes’ next home match, March 21, is 11 days away and the Santa Clara Public Health Department has banned all gatherings over 1000 people.

It’s going to get weirder before it gets better for sports in the wake of coronavirus fears.

UEFA chastises Serie A for handling of Koulibaly racist chants

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UEFA has publicly denounced the in-game handling of racist chants directed at Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly this week during a Serie A match between Napoli and Inter Milan at the San Siro.

Home Inter fans directed repeated racist chants towards Koulibaly, including monkey noises, despite multiple announcements over the stadium loudspeaker imploring the fans to stop. The UEFA report says that three announcements were made, and confirms that protocol was not followed, stating that the game should have been suspended.

“We are very concerned by this unacceptable racist incident and by what appears on the surface to be a failure to respect the widely-recognised three-step anti-racism protocol,” said UEFA in a joint statement with the players’ union FIFPro. “Koulibaly was subject to racist chanting and, despite announcements made by the stadium speaker, the chants did not stop. Moreover, it seems that Napoli’s coaching staff had already informed the referee several times of racist chants.”

As punishment for the chants, Inter was told it must play its next two home matches in a completely empty stadium.

Referee Paolo Mazzoleni eventually sent Koulibaly off for sarcastically applauding a decision, earning him a second yellow card. Koulibaly was given a two-match ban for his actions.

UEFA’s statement was made in the aftermath of Italian Football Federation chief Gabriele Gravina saying the referee followed protocol correctly, and claiming that Napoli pulling its players off the pitch would cause a “negative result” to be handed down. “Mazzoleni applied the rules perfectly,” Gravina told Sky Sports Italia after the game. “If players left the field then it would break the rules, followed by a negative result for their team. Let’s not forget that there are rules, which need to be improved. If not then it would be like the Wild West.”

Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti claimed after the match that he would pull his players off the field should this happen again, even if it resulted in forfeiture of the match. There are also reports that the Italian Federation is considering suspending Serie A after the actions at the San Siro. There was also pre-match violence which resulted in the the death of an Inter fan as well as a stabbing of four Napoli fans. The federation did announce, however, that Saturday’s fixtures would go on as planned.