April 6 – UEFA has been quick to play down reports attributed to its president Aleksander Ceferin that a deadline of August 3 has been set for the Champions League, which has reached the last-16 stage, and Europa League finals to be completed.
German broadcaster ZDF quoted Ceferin as saying the competitions had to be finished by then but UEFA said no date has been cast in stone.
“It has been reported that UEFA President, Aleksander Ceferin told ZDF in Germany that the UEFA Champions League must finish by 3 August. This is not true,” said a statement from European soccer’s governing body. “The President was very clear not to set exact dates for the end of the season.”
“UEFA is currently analysing all options to complete domestic and European seasons with the European Club Association and the European Leagues in the working group set up on 17 March. The primary priority of all the members of the working group is to preserve public health.
“Following on from that, it is to find calendar solutions to complete all competitions. Options are currently being studied to play matches in July and in August if needed, depending on restart dates and the permission of national authorities.”
Ceferin has admitted, however, that it would be preferable to play the two competitions behind closed doors rather than having to scrap them altogether -and warned both could be abandoned if coronavirus restrictions remain into September.
“Football isn’t the same without fans … it is definitely better to play with fans than without fans,” he was quoted by ZDF.
“It is still better to play the game behind closed doors and have it on TV, which is what the people need and want because it brings positive energy to their homes, than not playing at all. That’s what the people want, that brings positive energy, and it will be July or August. We can’t play it out in September or October.”
Pushed on whether the season could be abandoned totally, Ceferin said: “If the authorities do not allow us to play, then we cannot play.”
“It is an extraordinary situation we are in, so we are flexible on dates and kick-off times. If the crisis eases earlier, then we can start sooner.”
Revealing how matches might pan out, he added: “We could play with the current system, or in a one-off match played on neutral turf. For now, it’s just an option to play with a final eight or final four.
“The only wrong decision we could make now would be to play in a way that puts the health and safety of players, fans and referees at risk. However, if we are in secure conditions, then I don’t see the problem.”
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