Runaway leaders Ahly say completing Egyptian league is essential

Ahram Online , Saturday 2 May 2020

File photo of an Egyptian Premier League game between Ahly and Ittihad (Ahram)

Runaway leaders Ahly, who are overwhelming favourites to win a fifth straight Egyptian Premier League title, said on Saturday that completing the season is essential to avert drastic financial losses for clubs.

Most of the Premier League clubs said they want the season cancelled over health worries, with coronavirus cases steadily increasing in the country.

Egypt's premier domestic competition has been suspended since mid-March with only half the games played, amid doubts that it could be completed.

An Egyptian Football Association official said recently that resuming the competition is facing several obstacles due to a tight timeframe.

Hossam El-Zanati, who heads the association's competitions committee, said teams need four weeks to prepare for the league resumption and then 60 "uninterrupted days" to complete the season, warning that any further delays would heavily weigh on next season.

Ahly sit top of the table on 49 points, 16 ahead of nearest challengers Arab Contractors, who played a game more. The Red Devils believe any cancellations will badly affect cash-strapped clubs.

"Any decision other than resuming the season … will result in the clubs losing their earnings from marketing and television rights," the club said in a statement on their official website.

"Ahly, and possibly all clubs, have already paid around 85% of the salaries of players and members of the technical, administrative and medical staffs. If the season is cancelled, the clubs will not get more than 50% of television and sponsorship rights."

Egypt cancelled its domestic season twice in the last decade. The 2011-12 season was scrapped following the deadly Port Said disaster, which left over 70 Ahly fans dead, and the following season was also called off following the mass protests that toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

But Ahly believe there is no reason to cancel the competition this time around.

"There is no need to rush into taking a decision to call off the league, given that there is still enough time after the Olympic Games and the African qualifiers for national teams were postponed," the club added.

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