Lebanon's football association announce league suspension 'due to protests', others say it's lack of money

Lebanon's football association announce league suspension 'due to protests', others say it's lack of money
Lebanese sports has been hit hard by a liquidity crisis, forcing the governing bodies of major sports to suspend their seasons.
2 min read
21 January, 2020
The Lebanese Football Association (LBA) on Tuesday announced the suspension of its top-flight domestic league until further notice, due to an intense financial crisis gripping the sport in Lebanon. 

The announcement of a suspension for the 2019-2020 season follows similar decisions made by the governing bodies of Lebanon's basketball leagues and volleyball leagues, who were forced to cancel domestic tournaments, as anti-government protests intensify.

According to Bein Sports, the country's economic crisis has dealt a severe blow to the sports industry, with football hit hardest.

Major domestic clubs called on the footballing federation to amend their regulations and cancel tournaments.

Lebanon's liquidity crisis, and scarcity of foreign currency, meant they lacked sufficient capital to carry on playing, according to Annahar.

After meetings between the LBA's executive commitee and club officials, the decision to suspend was finalised.

The temporary measure will be lifted once "the volatile situation defuses", said the Lebanese Football Association's President, Hachem Haidar, according to Bein Sports.

Yet the return of the premier league will be a mere shadow of its former self, some have speculated. 

Annahar reports that the LBA will restart a "voluntary" league with an empty roster. So far, only the top five of the league's 12 teams have agreed to participate.

Haidar shed light on situation, saying it was down to the security situation.

"We took every effort to avoid the worst decision, since cancelling an entire sports season is disastrous to any sport and to football in particular. But the economic crisis has impacted all industries," he told AFP.

"The security situation, in particular the heavy clashes between protesters and security forces in recent days, is what compelled us, begrudingly, to suspend the season," Haidar added.

While some players supported the federation's decision, others were staunchly opposed. 

Kassem El Zein, captain of Nejmeh SC who plays as defender for Lebanon's national team, complained about the decision on his Facebook page.

"You did not only kill off football, you destroyed families, childrens and their parents, who play football because it is the only source of their income... What has happened to players is unforgivable," he wrote.

Beirut has been mired by three months of anti-government protest against a political class criticised for being corrupt, incompetent and reponsible for the economic crisis in Lebanon. 

On Saturday, nearly 400 people were wounded as security forces cracked down brutally on demonstrators, who have called for a week of "anger", as efforts to form a new government  - one comprised of independent experts and purged of all established political parties - remain deadlocked.

Read more: Hundreds injured in violent crackdown on Lebanon anti-government protests 

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