By Andrew Warshaw
April 1 – Having already postponed Euro 2020 for a year, UEFA took the equally unprecedented step today of suspending the rest of this season’s Champions League and Europa League “until further notice” because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All national team matches scheduled for June have also been postponed, including play-off matches for Euro 2020, throwing the calendar into further disarray.
After an initial video conference two weeks ago, UEFA and its 55 member associations had hoped to complete all games by June 30. But at a follow-up summit today, UEFA resigned itself to the fact this was no longer possible.
However, with 2020 qualifying playoffs and international friendlies planned for June now called off, additional space has in theory been cleared for domestic and European football to resume if possible – but almost certainly behind closed doors.
Significantly, UEFA has also postponed until further notice deadlines in relation to the admission process for all 2020-21 club competitions.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned at the weekend that this season could be “lost” if competitive action does not resume by the end of June and UEFA is bending over backwards to try and make sure that doesn’t happen.
There is still a strong possibility, however, that even more radical measures will have to be put in place if the Champions League and Europa League, suspended at the round-of 16 stage, cannot be completed. Four Champions League round-of-16 second-leg ties have yet to be played: Manchester City vs. Real Madrid, Juventus vs. Lyon, Barcelona vs. Napoli and Bayern Munich vs. Chelsea.
The final was scheduled for May 30 in Istanbul but with no end in sight to the pandemic UEFA say no decision has yet been made on finding a new date and that more announcements would be made “in due course.”
Unconfirmed reports say UEFA’s plan is now to stage the rest of its showpiece club competitions behind closed doors, partly to protect broadcast contracts, partly to prevent a domino effect into next season and partly to prevent impossible decisions being made with regard to the qualification process. That may be clutching at straws but with no end game in sight, it’s a moveable feast that is getting less palatable by the week.
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