UEFA and leagues say season must be finished as restart date debate suggests July

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By Andrew Warshaw

April 3 – UEFA and Europe’s top leagues and clubs have agreed that abandoning the season because of Covid-19 should be the last resort amid hints that clubs may not be allowed into next season’s European club competitions if they don’t qualify in the usual way.

A joint letter from the three bodies, which followed UEFA’s crisis video conference with its 55 members earlier this week, says plans are now underway to try and resume games in July and finish in August, albeit probably behind closed doors, with more information likely to be forthcoming in mid-May.

Most leagues have suspended fixtures indefinitely but in their letter to national associations, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, European Club Association boss Andrea Agnelli, and Lars-Christer Olsson, president of European Leagues, said remaining games, both domestically and in Europe, could be completed by playing into July and August, the period usually set aside for holidays, lucrative overseas tours and pre-season training but now technically a possibility because of  space freed up by the postponement of Euro 2020.

“We are confident that football can restart in the months to come – with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities – and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified,” said the letter.

“Since participation in UEFA club competitions is determined by the sporting result achieved at the end of a full domestic competition, a premature termination would cast doubts about the fulfilment of such condition. UEFA reserves the right to assess the entitlement of clubs to be admitted to the 2020-21 UEFA club competitions, in accordance with the relevant applicable competition regulations.”

The joint letter, sent after the Belgian League bucked the trend by becoming the first country to recommend scrapping the season and awarding the title to its runaway leader Club Brugge, added: “The common standpoint struck on 17 March by UEFA, the ECA and EL was that every effort had to be made in order to allow all domestic and European competitions to be concluded in compliance with their formats.”

Work is “now focusing on scenarios encompassing the months of July and August”, the letter says, adding it is of “paramount importance” that competitions, including domestic leagues, were decided on the field of play with domestic leagues completed first, followed by UEFA’s club competitions which are at the last-16 stage.

“Closely following the development of the current situation, the calendar working group will indicate as soon as possible, and ideally by mid-May, which of the plans can be enacted for the completion of the season without leaving anyone behind,” they wrote. “Stopping competitions should really be the last resort.”

Interestingly, the three parties admitted that dates for the new season may have to be pushed back, saying careful management of the calendar was needed before the scheduled start of the 2020-21 campaign “which may be partly impacted because of the overstretch.”

“Only an extraordinary coordinated effort of all competition organisers can help European football out of the crisis, recovering in full its core asset, the competitions.”

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