“Is the virus going to inject randomness into football? “

Given the health context, will the large stables remain better armed than the others, or is a leveling possible?

VSovid, season 2. The previous one entered history, plunged by a pandemic into the silence of empty stadiums or the nothingness of interrupted competitions. But the one that has just started will probably be the first to be contested entirely under exceptional conditions, 100% dystopian.

No one knows how it will end, or even for sure if it will end. It will only come to an end on a thread, by escaping all the traps of a terribly tight schedule, supposed to end with the Euro and which risks imploding if the health situation deteriorates.

In order for their competitions to take place at all costs, the organizers are ready to relax their initially drastic regulations. Ligue 1, which imposed the forfeit from four positive cases in a workforce, over eight rolling days, now allows to play if twenty of the thirty players in the professional group are negative.

The Covid Lottery

The uncertainty and suspense also relate to the sporting verdict of the competitions. With these contingencies which will not affect teams in the same way, with new conditions for preparing and playing matches, the need to improvise and so many X factors (such as the absence of an audience), will the cards be hackneyed? Will spoilers take advantage of the Covid lottery?

Already, with teams with disparate states of form, picked between two seasons, in the singular circumstances of a competition under bell, the Final 8 of the Champions League has delivered its share of surprises. A Bayern-PSG final is not exactly an underdog duel, but the usual hierarchy has previously been disrupted by Lyon, Atalanta Bergamo or RB Leipzig.

It is particularly a question of knowing if the big teams will remain better armed than the others, or if a leveling is possible. They keep their rich staff, but cannot renew them as much as they would like due to financial constraints and the sluggishness of the transfer market. Other teams, less stripped than usual, may benefit from a stability bonus.

New unknowns in the equation

Maintaining the possibility of five substitutions (except in the Premier League) works a priori in favor of the best teams. But if the virus hits them, the stitches may slip away. Still superior to RC Lens and OM “on paper” despite the absences, PSG nonetheless recorded two defeats against them. In other words, effective prevention of contamination will earn points …

It is not written that these unknowns rewrite the equation, that these new parameters stirred in the great shaker of probabilities upset the equilibrium. But the hypothesis exists that one of the main programs of the liberalization of football, during the last thirty years, is temporarily undermined: the reduction of the hazard.

Since the turn of the 1990s, we have in fact accumulated mechanisms aimed at increasingly correlating results with economic strength: the possibility of concentrating the best players, competition formulas limiting disappointments, keys to the unequal distribution of resources, etc. Even video arbitration proceeds – in theory – from this objective.

Questioning the principle of inequality

Other projects intend even better to curb the sporting hazard, starting with that of a closed or semi-closed European league, which would offer members of the caste already constituted the assurance of never being deposed. The (more very) glorious uncertainty of sport would only be restored in this inter-self. This is already the case, in reality, but we can never ensure enough returns on investment.

We will be careful not to find advantages for sport in an epidemic responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and a global economic crisis by attributing to it the virtues of immanent justice. That would be to respond to elitist cynicism with another cynicism. The question nevertheless arises: will the virus reinject randomness into football?

This new situation, provisional if we are to hope to overcome the health crisis, is obviously not likely to halt an evolution which has encountered almost no resistance in the sports, media and political spheres. But, since we are supposed to rethink the world before and think about the world after, it offers a precious opportunity to question the principle of inequality that governs contemporary football.


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