UEFA keener on playoffs to finish suspended domestic leagues

liverpool-lifts-champions-league-trophy

Liverpool's Jordan Henderson lifts the trophy to celebrate with his teammates winning the Champions League final between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid, Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Francisco Seco/AP)

UEFA is keener on leagues adopting new formats to determine final league places for European qualification if suspended domestic competitions cannot be completed due to government restrictions or financial concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The statement on Thursday opens the door to leagues temporarily adopting playoff formats so qualification for the Champions League and Europa League can be determined on “sporting merit.”

UEFA cautioned that teams could be denied places in Europe if leagues are prematurely halted and “there is a public perception of unfairness.”

Belgium is the only major top-flight so far to announce plans to halt the competition, while the Dutch federation also has plans to cancel the rest of the season.

“The ideal scenario, should the pandemic situation permit it, is to have the currently suspended domestic competitions completed enabling football clubs to qualify for UEFA club competitions on sporting merit in their original format,” UEFA said. “Should this outcome not be possible, in particular due to calendar issues, it would be preferable that suspended domestic competitions would restart with a different format in a manner which would still facilitate clubs to qualify on sporting merit.”

Europe’s top leagues — England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France — all have a traditional format where teams play each other home and away. Some countries like Belgium have a system where the league splits after 30 games into playoffs.

“If a domestic competition is prematurely terminated for legitimate reasons … the procedure for selecting clubs should be based on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principles,” UEFA said.

UEFA’s own club competitions were suspended last month, with some Champions League and Europa League last-16 match-ups yet to be played.

UEFA acknowledged there could be orders by authorities prohibiting sports events so “domestic competitions cannot be completed before a date that would make it possible to complete the current season in good time before the next season to start.”

UEFA also said it was aware “insurmountable economic problems” could mean trying to complete fixture programs is “impossible because it would put at risk the long-term financial stability” of leagues or clubs.

But UEFA did announce on Thursday it would share almost 70 million euros ($75.5 million) among 676 clubs that released players for European Championship qualifiers and Nations League games in the past two years.

The money is being released early to help “in light of the current crisis and the financial difficulties many clubs are facing,” UEFA said.

A longstanding agreement between UEFA and the European Club Association guarantees clubs at least 200 million euros from Euro 2020 revenues to compensate for releasing players to national duty in the 2018-20 cycle.

Payments to clubs were due after Euro 2020 but were being issued now after the coronavirus outbreak forced the tournament to be postponed to next year.

The highest-earning club will get 630,000 euros calculated pro rata per player named on a national team’s match sheet. That club was not identified.

UEFA said 2.7 million euros of the money will go to clubs after the 16-nation Euro 2020 playoffs later this year. Players selected for the Euro 2020 tournament will earn at least 130 million euros more for their clubs from UEFA.

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