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Liljelund: “There is the possibility to play the WFC with less than 16 teams”

(Featured image: Martin Flousek)

The following article is from Floorballmag, who interviewed John Liljelund about the World Floorball Championships 2020 and COVID-19.

So far the IFF had been publicly silent about impacts by COVID-19 on the coming Men’s WFC in Finland. Now Secretary General John Liljelund spoke to the Floorballmag about the situation. “Presently the approach is to play in December and to make more evaluations during the autumn to see what is possible”, he says.

Floorballmag: With what probability is the WFC 2020 in Finland going to take place? Under the current conditions the event would not be possible.

John Liljelund: IFF is working towards the execution of the WFC 2020 in Helsinki, Finland in December, even if we are living in these extraordinary times. This includes that we constantly have to follow and evaluate the general recommendations and restrictions being given in Finland and in all of the participating countries. We have been discussing the matter with the WFC 2020 LOC continuously and presently we believe that we are able to organize the event in December. It is impossible to give any probability figure as such, but if the development in Europe is going in the present direction it looks very positive.

But is there any specific deadline until when a final decision has to be made, else the WFC would have to be cancelled?

IFF has started to discuss this with the LOC and probably a Go/No-go date will be defined in the coming months to secure the interest of all concerned parties.

How does the current communication look like? Is the Finnish national federation in charge of discussions with the Finnish authorities?

As the Finnish government is presently starting to slowly lift the COVID-19 restrictions the discussions with the authorities will take place in end of May – beginning of June. As we have been in lockdown it has not been the right time or place to discuss this yet. The WFC LOC and the Finnish federation is in constant contact with the Ministry for Education and Culture concerning this and this is discussed in the WFC 2020 Steering group.

A major challenge will also be the participation of the teams. Many experts claim, transcontinental flights will be almost impossible until 2021. Among others the event is expecting teams from Australia, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, the USA and Japan. How is the IFF approaching this issue?

As said we have been in contact with the participating countries and are asking for updates of their travel restrictions. As things are happening quite slowly, it is not possible to say what the situation will be after summer. There is of course the possibility to play the Event with less than 16 teams, but this can only be decided during the fall.

A cancellation or reduction of the event due to national or international restrictions as late as in fall may cause severe financial problems especially to smaller federations. They have to book flights and accommodation well in advance. Total costs can easily reach six-digit numbers. Is there any kind of safety net planned to support them on this?

Based on the discussions with the participants, LOC and the authorities, we believe that the only option is to make the Go/No-go decision during the fall. The LOC is working towards the hotels and their conditions for booking and cancellations presently and nobody can book any flights anyway in a while. The plan is to have the Go/No-go date at least two months prior to the Event, but we will meet with the Finnish Sports ministry before summer to discuss this. This should act as the safety net and the IFF Office is in constant contact to these countries to help them as much as possible.

What would be more probable? A downsized event, for example for the top four teams only, or a postponed one?

Presently the approach is to play in December and to make more evaluations during the autumn to see what is possible. As the governments have made very quick decisions in this crisis, it is totally unclear what is possible or not possible in December. It is far too early to speculate what the Event would look like and this has to be decided by the IFF Central Board, which will discuss the in its following meetings in end of May and beginning of September.

And if federations would now cancel their participation at the event, for example to protect themselves or their fans from financial harm, will the IFF claim any penalty fees?

IFF has already in relation to the cancellation of the WFC 2020 AOFC qualification in Bangkok dealt with this question and not sanctioned a team withdrawing due to COVID-19 before the cancellation. But this will have to be discussed case by case, as the withdraw must be based on concreate reasons and risks.

Providing a final information in fall may also harm the ticket sales. Can you confirm that in case of cancellation tickets will be reimbursed? 

As said before IFF and LOC is working based on the assumption that the Event will be played in December. All questions related to ticket sales is handled by the LOC and they are working with the company Ticketmaster and follows their reimbursement policies.

The IFF has postponed the Women’s U19 WFC in Uppsala to early September, even three months prior to the men’s event. Perhaps a too early date. As of now, this event could not take place. What do the considerations look like here? Are there any deadlines?

The IFF postponed the U19 WFC 2020 based on the discussions with the Swedish organizer and we are in contact with the Swedish association to discuss the present situation and will know more after the IFF CB meeting on the 22nd to 23rd of May.

How does the work of the IFF office look like right now? Everyone in home office?

For the Office, we are following the government recommendations to work from home and all meetings are held digitally, so there is quite some time spent in front of the computer screen.

For the original article, go to Floorballmag.com.

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