Is there light at end of Covid-19 tunnel for Liga MX?

Chivas captain Jesús Molina gestures after scoring a goal against Monterrey on March 14. (Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Chivas captain Jesús Molina gestures after scoring a goal against Monterrey on March 14. (Photo by Alfredo Moya/Jam Media/Getty Images) /

Liga MX soccer teams start to consider options as Mexican government outlines plans for returning to a “new normal.”

The Chivas could be back in training camp by June 11 and the most optimistic projections have Liga MX returning by July 1, according to the sports daily “Record.” But such a scenario seems highly unlikely as the coronavirus pandemic has yet to peak in Mexico.

The eagerness to return within the footballing community was activated by the May 13 announcement that Mexico would start moving toward “normalization” by the end of the month.

The plan separates the country into regions and will use color codes (ESPN’s Tom Marshall describes it as a “traffic light system”) to determine when businesses can re-open and people can return to work and school within that region.

At present, Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Hidalgo (in the center of the Republic) and Baja California in the northeast find themselves in the “red,” or hazardous, phase. As such, six Liga MX teams – América, Cruz Azul and Pumas in Mexico City, Toluca in the State of Mexico, and Pachuca in Hidalgo, as well as Tijuana – are located in areas with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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Despite this, Marshall reports that “the government in Mexico City – the most affected area – announced on Wednesday that sporting events without spectators could return on June 15 at the earliest.”

On the other hand, seven states where eight other teams play are in “green” zones, described by the government in their re-opening plan as “Municipios de Esperanza” (“Municipalities of Hope”). Santos Laguna, Rayados of Monterrey, the Tigres, Atlético de San Luis, Querétaro, FC Juárez, Atlas and Guadalajara are located in these states.

These “green” regions could be authorized to start re-opening – according to specified guidelines – on June 1. As such, the Chivas have circulated internally a protocol for testing and tracing, as well as a training regimen that would be put in place once government authorities authorize the activities.

The four remaining teams – León, Morelia, Puebla and Necaxa – are in “orange” regions.

Liga MX officials have made no formal announcement regarding a restart to the Clausura 2020 as several teams wrestle with financial considerations. One wonders whether the league might consider moving teams to “green” zones together a la the MLS which is pondering basing all its teams in Orlando and playing at local (empty) venues.

One concern for league members is the loss of revenues from playing in empty stadiums. This will make it hard for small-market teams to meet payroll. Wage reductions already put in place during the suspension might have to be negotiated (and extended) by certain teams who will find it difficult to make up back pay and pay players in full through the rest of the season.

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One potential issue involving expiring player contracts has been resolved. FIFA ruled that player contracts expiring in June will be valid until the end of the respective league’s new end date.

The Liga MX shut down after Matchday 10 games on March 15. Seven games remain on the schedule.