On Tuesday, French Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, said that all French professional sporting events will be banned until September.
According to the French Government, the country’s lockdown has saved 62,000 lives. In light of the promising numbers, Philippe said it was time to ease some quarantine restrictions to avoid an economic collapse. But sports will not be a part of the country’s recovery effort.
“The 2019-2020 season of professional sports, especially that of football, will not be able to resume,” he announced.
No fans in stadiums, no players playing, no pro sports for the rest of the summer in France.
Around Europe, other leagues are making decisions about their season’s salvageability. Holland’s top soccer league has been canceled. Additionally, Belgium and Scotland plan to shut their soccer leagues down soon. Germany’s Bundesliga, England’s Premier League and Italy’s Serie A, however, will reportedly resume their seasons in the coming months.
In the U.S., both President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci want sports back, too. Weeks ago, Fauci told Snapchat’s Peter Hamby that he could see sports coming back under strict surveillance and without fans. And two weeks ago, Trump included commissioners and team owners in his reopening America economic advisory group.
Philippe’s decision does not mean the U.S. will follow suit. It may even embolden Trump to push for an irrational reopening day in sports.
Still, the U.S. has more reported coronavirus cases than anywhere in the world, topping 1 million. If the country rushes back to normal, experts warn it will make America sick again.
In moments like these, it’s interesting to think about what could have happened in hindsight. Could the U.S. have been more prepared for an outbreak? Should New York have called for more ventilators? Should I have unpacked the groceries with gloves? These are the questions that keep me up at night.
When it comes to this story of French politics and sports, I wonder how the country would have fared in a National Front government which almost took power in 2017. Philippe, a member of the Macron administration and France’s center-right Republican party, is no Marine Le Pen.
The Le Pen family has a history of mixing sports and far-right politics. Most notably, Marine’s father, Jean-Marie, was unapologetically xenophobic towards the 1998 Wolrd Cup winning team, calling some multinational team members “foreigners” because they did not sing the national anthem.
Would Le Pen consider postponing the summer soccer season? Or would she rally her nationalist party to disregard health officials, get back to work and play on? At least we will never know.
Across the world, reopening businesses, countries, and sports, have been unquestionably political.
Philippe’s declaration attempts to restart a deteriorated economy and keep the country’s citizens safe. Both can be possible.
But, for France, sports are not an essential business.
That’s not the case in America, apparently.