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Since the state emergency was decreed in Spain on March 14, 2020 to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak, the Spanish Association of the Sports Press (AEPD) has reported in detail on the different contexts and how the pandemic has affected the group that represents: sports journalists.

In Spain, the red light of danger came on very early, specifically on February 21 when a Valencian journalist Kike Mateu (44 years old) entered the University hospital suffering with the sympthoms of the virus, after completing his informative work on the 19th in Milan in the Atalanta Bergamo-Valencia CF match held in San Siro and attended by more than two thousand Valencia fans.

One of the measures adopted by the AEPD, before the state of alarm was decreed, was to postpone the National Sports Gala, which should have been held in Teruel on March 16. The announcement of the postponement was made after a detailed study over the evolution of the virus and its potential impact on massive events. In this sense, it should be noted that the Provincial Sports Galas of various associations, such as Ávila, Andalucía and Melilla, were also postponed, as well as the National Congress that was also to be held in Teruel after the Gala, while other Provincial Associations deleted them from their agendas without even announcing them.

The Spanish Sports Press Association has gradually reported all the measures adopted by the government of Spain and other institutions that have directly affected our group. One of the measures taken by the Ministry of Labor during the pandemic has been to design a Temporary Employment Regulation File (ERTE) due to force majeure derived from Covid-19. The AEPD has collected all the documentation generated in this regard on its website related to this exceptional measure that is still in force in different media. One of the first publishing groups to join the ERTE was Prensa Ibérica, owner of the headlines El Periódico de Catalunya, the newspaper Sport, Faro de Vigo, La Nueva España de Asturias and Mediterranean of the Valencian Community. ERTE that later affected many more media and sports journalists.

As a result of this exceptional situation, free help lines for the self-employed have also been created. These services, of special interest to the freelance journalists that make up the AEPD, have been proactively communicated.

The AEPD has also been active and vigilant with the protocols that the Ministry of Health, the Superior Council of Sports and LaLiga are establishing for the coverage of the First and Second Division matches. As of today (Monday, June 8), it has not been specified who and under what criteria may enter the stadiums, since the competition will be held behind closed doors.

Last Thursday, June 4, the AEPD declined to be in charge of selecting six journalists from the written press who will be allowed access. The letter, sent to LaLiga, has also been made public on the Association’s official channels (www.aepde.org).

Spain has been one of the most affected countries by Covid-19, registering more than twenty-seven thousand deaths according to official figures from the government of Spain. The first sports journalist of our association – as we have indicated – to test positive for Covid-19 was Kike Mateu, who after 40 days fighting against the disease and after a prompt intervention by the University Hospital of Valencia was able to return home. Mateu and two other teammates who attended Atalanta-Valencia can now say that they have won the battle at Covid-19. But they were followed by many sports journalists.

Among the comrades who have left us (March 20) because of the Covid-19, there are key pieces of Spanish sports journalism such as José María “Chema” Candela, one of the best sports professionals at Radio Nacional de España; and Tomás Díaz Valdés, a benchmark in motorcycling with the legendary Ángel Nieto. Both died in March, as did veteran informant Francisco Alarcón, from Cuenca. Several colleagues from different provinces have tested positive for them, but have passed them after undergoing the relevant treatments.

During the pandemic from the AEPD, the testimony of sports journalists who have defeated the virus has been collected, in order to establish a hopeful and fighting story during the most difficult moments. Ricardo Guerra and Javier Lekuona, associated by Álava; Theo Vargas, the broadcaster who has narrated the most matches from Cádiz CF; and Tano Mora, president of the Albacete Sports Press Association; They have shared their experience with the rest of the associates through the AEPD website. But there have been many sports journalists who have had to overcome quarantine, such as the popular and Spanish radio star Manolo Lama, from Cadena Cope, or colleagues such as Antonio Ruiz (Cope), Tomás Calvo (Prensa Atlético de Madrid, Luis Leardy, who also lost his father, Communication Director of the Spanish Paralympic Committee and many others.

In the course of the confinement, referents of Spanish sports journalism have died for reasons other than Covid-19 but that, given the state of alarm, their colleagues, friends and family have not been able to say their last goodbye as they deserved. Such is the case of Michael Robinson, Miguel Ors, Paco Cañete, Manolo Álvarez, or Juan Antonio Calvo.

During the months of confinement, many personalities from the world of sports have also died from Coronavirus. Lorenzo Sanz (ex-president of Real Madrid), Paco Mendoza (ex-president of Recreativo de Huelva), José Luis Capón (ex-player of Atlético de Madrid), Goyo Benito (ex-player of Real Madrid), Benito Joanet (coach of many First team teams) and Second Division), José Antonio Martínez Bayo (one of the best long-distance athletes of the 70s) and two leaders in national cycling, Santiago Llorente Fernández and Daniel Yuste, among others.

Source: Alberto Gozalo Perez – AEPD, Juan A. Prieto| AIPS EC Member

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