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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 FA chief hopes Serie A will return in ‘July or August’

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The president of the Italian FA (FIGC) is hopeful the Serie A season will return to action in July or August.

Gabriele Gravina revealed that he expects the suspension of Italy’s top-flight to last for at least another three months as the European nation has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic with over 7,000 deaths in Italy so far.

Speaking to Radio Marte, Gravina was adamant he will do everything in his power for the 2019-20 season to return but believes the suspension will continue a lot longer than most people anticipate as UEFA’s deadline of June 30 for the season to end seems increasingly unrealistic.

“For as long as I’m able to, I won’t lose hope of resuming the campaign. I’ll do anything to make that happen. I find giving up very difficult,” Gravina said. “I’m aware that it’s still too early to think of a date, but we must think positively. We’ll try our best to even play at the cost of asking for support from UEFA and FIFA to go beyond June 30, therefore also taking advantage of July and August.

“Right now, there’s no room for individual interests. I plead for common sense because, ultimately, it’s the FIGC that will have to decide. Tomorrow [Thursday], there will be a new appointment with the government to work on a series of proposals that concern some amendments, which the government will assess, but there are many other issues of our relevance. We don’t want to ask for money, but we’re denouncing a state of crisis. We ask the government to help us with a series of measures to help modernise our game. We’ll see them tomorrow, then we will meet again next week for a permanent and constant worktable, putting together indispensable ideas to form projects. I consider [cancelling the season] a defeat of mine and one that diminishes the value of the competition. It would lead to an unpleasant scenario.”

In essence the head of the Italian FA has vowed to finish the 2019-20 season and that falls in line with what Premier League clubs want as they announced last week that the current season had been “extended indefinitely” with a possible return date from April 30.

If Italy is predicting the Serie A season to return three months from now, the same resumption date is likely for England, France, Germany and Spain as Europe remains to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lower-division clubs among hardest hit by pandemic

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MADRID — A Spanish third-division soccer team had just started selling a special membership package for the decisive portion of the season, hoping to bring in some extra income.

Another was counting on the boost from revenue on the back of ticket sales for the upcoming derby against a regional rival, one of its biggest matches of the season.

They were not expecting the coronavirus outbreak, nor to see soccer come to a halt.

The suspension of competitions across the globe has taken a toll on top teams everywhere, but it will be for the smaller clubs that the financial impact may cause the most damage.

While the stoppage has already forced some teams in the major leagues to cut players’ salaries, the effect of the crisis on lower-division clubs may be even more dire, lasting longer and possibly leading to financial collapse.

“Every team in the third division will suffer serious consequences,” Franco Caselli, president of Spanish third-division club Burgos, told The Associated Press. “Some more than others, depending on their economic situation.”

In most countries, there are no lucrative television broadcast deals for teams outside the first and second divisions. Their income comes mostly from ticket sales, small sponsors, team merchandising, season memberships and youth academy memberships – most of which have been affected by the suspension of games.

Caselli said Burgos, one of the bigger clubs in Spain’s third division, is doing well financially and should be able to withstand the crisis, but not without losses.

“We had put on sale a special membership package for the last matches of the league, and more than 1,000 had already been sold,” he said. “That was a 20 percent increase in new memberships at this stage, so the losses will be important.”

Mérida, also in Spain’s third tier, was looking to pack its 14,600-capacity stadium for the derby against Badajoz just before it was suspended because of the outbreak, jeopardizing one of its biggest revenue sources of the season.

Fourth-division club Sant Andreu, which plays in a Barcelona neighborhood at a small stadium where players’ errant shots can go over the stands and onto the nearby streets, estimated a 30 percent deficit from the current stoppage of play.

“We are facing the unknown,” Manuel Camino, president and owner of the club, told the AP. “We don’t know how long this will last.”

Camino said he also doesn’t fear for the club’s future, but others elsewhere were not so optimistic.

Italian third-division club Casertana was one of several lower-league teams to announce it can no longer pay players’ wages.

Casertana President Giuseppe D’Agostino said the financial strain on his cheese company – which specializes in buffalo mozzarella – combined with the lack of matches, became too much to handle.

“Unfortunately, the state of emergency created by the coronavirus represented an enormous blow to all commercial enterprises … and did not spare my company,” D’Agostino said. “That has made it impossible to respect (a) deadline for players’ wages.”

English clubs also struggled to withstand the crisis. Fifth-tier Barnet had to place all non-playing staff on notice in “emergency measures to preserve the club.”

“We have to consider the impact that COVID-19 will have in the immediate and long-term future,” the club said in a statement.

Club chairman Tony Kleanthous said it was his “responsibility to ensure Barnet FC continues to survive and remains financially stable and therefore, I have had to make difficult decisions.”

In Spain, the Spanish soccer federation, which oversees the lower divisions, said it has been able to guarantee the money destined to smaller clubs thanks in part to the extra revenue it generated by taking the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.

“We have guaranteed 100 percent of the help this year and also for next year,” federation President Luis Rubiales said.

Top-division teams in Europe had already shown signs of struggle, with some in Germany making salary cuts. Players for German title challenger Borussia Mönchengladbach this week approached the club with an offer to take reduced salaries, while Scottish club Hearts asked all of its players and other full-time employees to accept a 50 percent pay cut or contract termination.

Clubs in Switzerland and France also took measures to try to reduce the losses caused by the pandemic, which has infected more than 275,000 people and killed more than 11,400 worldwide.

Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said recently that he hoped the leagues could resume as soon as possible, even if the matches are played in empty stadiums.

“If someone says they’re ruling out ghost games (empty stadium games), then they don’t need to think any more about whether we’ll be playing with 18 or 20 pro clubs,” he said, referring to the debate about promotion and relegation for next season. “Because then we won’t have 20 pro clubs anymore.”

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

AC Milan’s Paolo, Daniel Maldini test positive for coronavirus

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Legendary AC Milan defender (and current technical director) Paolo Maldini has tested positive for coronavirus after displaying symptoms of the virus this week, the club confirmed in a statement on Saturday.

[ MORE: Update: Which soccer leagues are still playing? ]

Maldini, who made more than 600 appearances for Milan — the only club for which he played during his astonishing 25-year career — along with 126 for Italy, became aware earlier this week of contact he made with a person who later tested positive for the virus. Milan revealed that Maldini’s swab test was administered on Friday and came back positive.

Maldini’s 18-year-old son Daniel also tested positive for the virus. Daniel is currently a forward in Milan’s youth academy. He has previously trained with the first team, though the club did not reveal if he had done so recently.

Paolo and Daniel are both well and have already completed two weeks at home without contact with others. They will now remain in quarantine until clinically recovered, as per the medical protocols outlined by the health authorities.

Paolo and Daniel join a growing list of well-known soccer figures in Italy to have tested positive for the virus over the last week. Juventus stars Paulo Dybala, Blaise Matuidi and Daniele Rugani and Sampdoria’s Manolo Gabbiadini, among others, were revealed to have contracted the virus in the days since Serie A went on hiatus.

Juventus confirm Dybala tests positive for coronavirus

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Juventus have confirmed that star playmaker Paulo Dybala has tested positive for coronavirus.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

The Serie A side now have three players who have COVID-19 with Dybala joining Daniele Rugani and Blaise Matuidi in testing positive.

Juve released the following statement on Saturday as the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain have flown home to Madeira and Argentina respectively to self-isolate.

“Paulo Dybala has undergone medical tests that revealed a positive result for Coronavirus-COVID19. He has been in voluntary home isolation since Wednesday 11 March. He will continue to be monitored, following the usual regime. He is well and is asymptomatic.”

In recent days Italy has overtaken China as the country with the most deaths during the coronavirus pandemic as several Serie A stars have tested positive as players from Juventus and Sampdoria have been impacted.

Dybala sent out the following message on social media on Saturday confirming he has coronavirus as he wanted to reassure people that he was doing fine, as was his girlfriend Oriana who has also tested positive for COVID-19.

“Hello everyone, I wanted to inform you that we have just received the results of the COVID-19 test and both Oriana and I tested positive. Fortunately we are in perfect condition. Thanks for your messages and greetings to all,” Dybala said.