Real Sociedad’s plans to be the first Spanish football team to return to training have been cancelled after the intervention of the secretary of state for sport.
Copa del Rey finalists and fourth in the league when the state of emergency was imposed due to the Coronavirus crisis on March 14, la Real had been due to restart sessions on Tuesday. That decision had been prompted by the Spanish government allowing some non-key workers to return to work this week but was abandoned after a call from Irene Lozano on Sunday night.
Real Sociedad had planned for the squad to return to their Zubieta training complex individually following a strict protocol in which they would work one after the other rather than in groups. They would not shower there or occupy the dressing room. Instead, players had been told to arrive in their training kit and depart immediately afterwards to change at home. They had also been told that the sessions were voluntary: players who wished to could continue working at home.
The club had discussed the plans with local police and the health authorities in the Basque Country, but the decision lay with the central government via the Consejo Superior de Deportes, which is effectively Spain’s sports ministry. An email exchange was followed up by a call from the CSD head Irene Lozano to the president Jokin Aperibay. She outlined that the state of alarm does not allow a return for mass entertainment industries and, although Real Sociedad’s interpretation of that rule differed from the CSD because there was no plan for group work still less public access, they accepted Lozano’s intervention.
The Real Sociedad midfielder David Zurutuza said that he could not understand the decision in a tweet but the minister for sport praised the club’s attitude on social media. “Dialogue and understanding, always,” Lozano wrote. “In order to return to some normality it is vital to fulfil the rules of confinement. Training sessions will return but not as an individual or irresponsible act from football, rather as another step along the path for a society returning to normality bit by bit.”
A statement from Real Sociedad said: “We are fully aware of our responsibility and we are working on a plan for getting both our athletes and employees back to work following the protocols established by the [health] authorities. Health is the absolute priority, above all other considerations. We want to thank the CSD for their friendly attitude during our conversations.”