European football mulls July August restart stopping leagues ‘last resort’

European football, currently at a standstill because of the coronavirus, is focusing on a restart in July and August with clubs and leagues being told that stopping competitions should “really be the last resort.”

UEFA, the European Club Association and the European Leagues umbrella group sent a joint letter to their members Thursday saying it was of “paramount importance” that competitions, including domestic leagues, were decided on the field.

The letter, seen by Reuters, was sent hours after the Belgian league abandoned the season and proclaimed Club Brugge as champions. There have also been calls from clubs in the Netherlands and Italy for those respective leagues to be called off.

However, the letter said that two working groups set up by UEFA — which has agreed to postpone its flagship Euro 2020 tournament until next year — were working on ways to extend the current season beyond the official June 30 finish. More details are expected by mid-May.

A potential issue could be that many players from prominent leagues — including the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, French Ligue 1 — would, legally, disappear from club rosters come July 1 when their contracts expire or when their loan deals come to an end.

FIFA have assembled a working group to deal with that issue and a proposal, obtained by ESPN’s Gabriele Marcotti, outlines some potential solutions. The single biggest proposed change is that all contracts set to expire on June 30 would instead expire on the final day of the 2019-20 season, whenever that day is in an individual country in accordance with their government and health authorities.

The letter sent Thursday said the working groups were “focusing on scenarios encompassing the months of July and August, including the possibility that the UEFA competitions restart after the completion of domestic leagues.”

It said that a joint management of calendars was needed to coordinate the end of the current season with the start of the new one, “which may be partly impacted because of the overstretch.”

It also called on leagues around Europe to work together.

“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,” it said.

Euro 2020: Postponed for a year
Champions League: Suspended indefinitely
Premier League: Suspended until April 30
La Liga: Suspended indefinitely
Bundesliga: Likely no fans for rest of 2020
Ligue 1: Suspended indefinitely
Serie A: Suspended until April 3
Copa America: Postponed until 2021
MLS: Suspended until May 10

It added: “Stopping competitions should really be the last resort after acknowledging that no calendar alternative would allow to conclude the season.

“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.”

It appeared to suggest that, where competitions did not end on the field, the clubs involved might not qualify for European competition next season.

“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 fulfillment of such condition,” it said.

It added that UEFA reserves the right to “assess the entitlement of clubs” to take part in the Champions League and Europa League.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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