Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte just confirmed that Italy has entered a complete lockdown due to COVID-19, limiting travel and physical gatherings of people to combat the spread of the virus. While this will obviously affect a lot of things more important than sport, one of the results of the decision is that Serie A has suspended league play indefinitely, finally bowing to the wishes of the player’s union and CONI, as well as basic common sense.
Because this is a website about soccer, we’re going to confine ourselves to discussing how this ban affects the game. We’re not going to talk about the wider significance of the ban or the disease as we simply don't have the requisite knowledge of epidemiology, virology, or sociology to adequately discuss what we can expect in Italy and the rest of the world due to COVID-19’s impact.
Italy has seen nearly 8,000 confirmed cases of the virus at the time of publication, as well as almost 500 deaths. With no way to guarantee the safety of the players or staff at matches, it was simply impossible to continue the season. While there’s a small chance that the ban is lifted soon enough for clubs to resume competition before the Euros begin on 12 June 2020 (assuming that the tournament continues as planned), it’s far more likely that Serie A is done until next season.
This will be just the second time in the history of the Italian top flight that a championship has ended early; the first was due to World War One and occurred in 1915. With so little precedent—this was before Serie A existed and the competition was still called the Prima Categoria—the league will have to figure out how to organize the table with all teams having at least a dozen fixtures left to play. Expect justifiable but inevitable fury about some of the decisions on who goes to Europe, who gets promoted, and who gets relegated.
The closure will also affect Italian clubs’ spending next year and could reverberated until 2023, as the lack of ticket sales will lead to lower incomes, which in turn will lead to a reining in of spending on players. Given the progress that the league has been making over the past few years, it’s a substantial setback for outfits in the top tier. At the lower levels of the game, we could see an unprecedented number of clubs fold, too, as Serie C and Serie D clubs rely almost entirely on gate receipts to stay in business sometimes; without a full season’s worth, they may not be able to keep the lights on.
Fiorentina is likely to be less affected than many other teams in Serie A. Currently in the mid-table and safe from both relegation and from European competition, the Viola will stay in the top tier no matter what. When it comes to determining who gets the scudetto—Lazio trails Juventus by a single point—and the relegated outfits—Genoa leads Lecce on goal difference for the final drop spot—things could get very heated.
One of the early proposals we’ve heard for next year is a 22-team Serie A, featuring all of this year’s teams as well as the automatic promotion winners from Serie B, which would then necessitate a 5-team relegation to keep 20 teams in top flight. In theory, again, this probably wouldn't mean very much in the long run for the Viola, but could lead to some very strange scheduling.
Regardless of what the future holds, all we can do is wait for further clarity and hope for the best for Fiorentina, for Italy, and for the world. Stay safe, everyone, and stay informed. We’ll be here no matter what and we hope y'all stick around too, even if the Viola aren’t playing.