Serie A Titles in Times of Tragedy

With the season suspended in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the logical football conversation would be to talk about the title for this season. Will it be assigned? Or will it be left unassigned? If so, should it just be assigned to the current leader as the season was halted, even if not every team played the same number of matches? Can the season be played out? Or should there be a playoff to determine the Scudetto, should calcio be able to resume before summer?

One of the most competitive seasons in a while, would be a shame not to see how it ends

This tragedy is sadly not the only one to interfere with a Serie A season. During World War I, when it was known as “Prima Categoria,” before Serie A, the 1914-15 season was suspended in May prior to the final rounds and National Finals being able to be played when Italy entered World War I. It wasn’t until after the end of the war that the FIGC awarded the title to Genoa.

The following four seasons, 1915-16, 1916-17, 1917-18, and 1918-19 were not played at all due to the war. (I think Inter are still trying to get a court to award these titles to them, just based on the fact that they won the following season’s Scudetto. Unfortunately, their wiretapping skills were needed for the war, so they did not get the recordings they needed.)

The 1914-15 Genoa team that were handed the title after World War I

Tragedies of war or other world crises are not the only thing that impacts Serie A. During the rule of Mussolini in Italy, fascism shaped and reshaped football. The Divisione Nazionale, as it was called, was restructured under fascist management. Never a country to shy away from controversy, the 1926-27 title was left un-awarded. Originally, Torino won the league on the pitch. However, their title was revoked the following season due to an alleged match-fixing scandal involving their derby with Juventus. (Juventus should have learned from Torino that if you say “sul campo,” or on the pitch, your titles would be revoked.)

The 1926-27 Torino squad whose Scudetto was revoked

During World War II, Serie A, now officially known as Serie A, was played during the early years of the war. The 1943-44 season was cancelled, although there was another championship based on the previous league, in which a shorter campaign was held. This championship was given an honorary official title in 2002, but not a Scudetto. It was awarded to VV.FF. Spezia, a team made up largely of local firefighters. The 1944-45 season was cancelled completely due to the end of the war.

Only a few years later, another type of tragedy struck. The team known as “il Grande Torino” had already secured their fifth consecutive title by the beginning of May. They were perhaps the greatest Italian team in history, and the core of Italy’s national team as well. As they were flying back home from a friendly in Portugal, the plane crashed, killing everyone on board. All but a couple of players were on the plane. Their final four matches of the season were played by all Primavera players. All of their opponents respectfully also fielded their Primavera players. That tragedy drastically altered the course of Serie A and the Italian national team, but the Scudetto had been won by Torino.

"il Grande Torino" did not live to lift their 5th straight Scudetto

The most recent tragedy that impacted the awarding of Scudetti was a match fixing scandal known as Calciopoli. This scandal broke at the same time that Italy were winning their fourth World Cup in 2006. Neither the courts nor the mythology got this one right, but in the end, Juventus were stripped of both their 2004-05 and 2005-06 titles. The 2004-05 title was left unassigned. The 2005-06 title was given to third place Inter, whose wiretapped recordings which demonstrated their guilt were magically not found until right after the statute of limitations was up. This title is often referred to the “Paper Scudetto,” as it was awarded by the courts rather than won on the pitch.

The 2004-05 Juventus squad that saw their title revoked

Now we have an unprecedented tragedy in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league have met via videoconference, and all 20 teams agree that they would like an opportunity to play out the rest of the season once the lockdown in Italy is removed. Their current goal is for that to begin May 9th, and play through mid-July. The idea of extending players' contracts due to expire June 30th through the end of the season (a couple of extra weeks) is also being discussed.

However, Italy are the country hardest hit per capita by the virus, and there were 350 new deaths in the last 24 hours alone. This crisis is not slowing down. No one wants to see players or fans put at risk, even if we could all desperately use some football right about now. The fate of this season’s title is still in the hands of… well, fate.

This post inspired by the brave people in Italy and all over the world who are fighting the brave battle against COVID-19

Serie A Titles in Times of Tragedy Serie A Titles in Times of Tragedy Reviewed by Elaine on 2:52 AM Rating: 5
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