It was time for containment. The forced break invited, so we thought about it. In a sport in “the next world”, the almost unexpected opportunity to review what did not work, or did not work well, in the professional world of many disciplines. And ideas were rife, especially on the recurring problem of calendars, considered for a long time as overloaded, even “Insane”.
Take football. At the end of March, through the president of OGC Nice Jean-Pierre Rivère, surfaced the idea of a total transformation of the French championship, by scheduling most of the matches between February and November and no longer from August to May as today. A great leap to begin in 2021 and very well suited to the prospect of a World Cup in Qatar scheduled for November and December 2022. Such a solution is “Complex to implement”, and can only be considered “On a European and global level”, warned the Nice leader.
The return of hellish cadences
But it temporarily won the support of Jean-Michel Aulas, president of Olympique Lyonnais, and, at the end of April, Frédéric Thiriez. Logically, the former boss of the Professional Football League (from 2002 to 2016) had in 2008 already defended a similar reform project, inspired by a Michel Platini then president of UEFA. “We had stumbled at the time on the question of the transition from one system to another, within particular a period of six months between the two to be filled, says Frédéric Thiriez. However the break caused by the Covid-19 made it possible to solve this problem, while keeping the possibility of finishing the championship until Christmas to start again then in 2021. Of course, it would have been necessary to convince the other big European countries, the Nordic countries and the East is already on this calendar. But no one carried the idea, and maybe the great opportunity has passed. “
Football seems to have returned to its small business. And the same goes for most sports. From cycling providing for a hellish string of races from the start of the new school year to handball chaining the European Final Four at the end of December and qualifications for Euro 2022 (beginning of January 2021) and the World Cup 2021 (from 14 to 31 January), the calendars blackened with rage. Only rugby seems poised to put a little consistency in his. World Rugby, the governing body of the discipline is working on harmonization of its international calendar, which could see the Six Nations Tournament and its equivalent in the southern hemisphere, the Four Nations, taking place at the same period, at the beginning of the spring. A world championship of nations is also under consideration, which could replace the fall tests and take place at the start of the school year, one month in the North, one month in the South. However, setting these meetings to music at the same time as the national championships and the European Cups hardly seems to militate for a reduction in cadences.
Is reinvention still possible?
“We know that any reform is extremely complicated because it brings together actors with varied, even divergent interests, underlines Christophe Lepetit, an economist at the Center for Sports Law and Economics in Limoges. We can also understand that the current economic emergency, for many disciplines in survival mode, does not encourage much thinking. However, I remain convinced of the need to at least lay the foundations for this reflection. We cannot continue on the trend observed in recent years in many sports of ever more competitions with always more participants. This inflationary phenomenon is incompatible with the world to come and in particular the announced global warming. We will no longer be able to play sports in the same way in the short term. So take the opportunity to rethink things. “.
Avoid falling back into the ” business as usual “, Who comes back running, easier said than done? “We could hope for a gigantic international conference on calendars, to say that France can take leadership in this debate in the four years to come before Paris 2024, says Philippe Bana, the national technical director of the French Handball Federation. We can see that the athletes are more and more tired of the imposed cadences, but there is probably a lack of charismatic ambassadors capable of really carrying these subjects ”.
According to economist Christophe Lepetit, this role of international conscience could be embodied by players. In tennis, the involvement of some stars like Roger Federer, who campaigns for the fusion of male and female circuits, seems decisive. “Perhaps we could think of a council of wise men, with former players and former coaches”, for his part, mentions Frédéric Thiriez. Who does not want to believe sport incapable of reinventing itself? “Historically, there have been few opportunities to change the game, and you have to be able to seize them. “