Who is involved in the video conference with Uefa and what will they discuss?
Uefa called the video conference last Thursday forTuesday to discuss football’s response to the coronavirus crisis, with all 55 of Europe’s football associations, the European Club Association, European Leagues and the international players’ union Fifpro. There is expected to be more than one meeting, probably with the FAs holding theirs separately. There was some criticism when the video-conferences were announced that no supporters organisations are included, although the postponement of matches clearly affects fans in huge numbers. Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, a collective of European fans’ groups that works with Uefa on many issues, said, though, that dialogue has continued with senior management at Uefa, including over the coronavirus response. Evain said he had told Uefa that the clear consensus from supporters is to recognise the urgency of the public health crisis, and necessity for suspension of the games, however long it takes, but to seek clear and well-communicated decisions.
What decisions are likely to be taken at the video conference?
Uefa, leagues, clubs and associations are stressing that they are at the beginning of, in several cases, country-wide lockdowns, and the suspension of the sport, so they cannot make decisions now about if, when or how the competitions will resume. However it is widely assumed that Uefa will have decided there is no option but to postpone the European Championship finals which are scheduled to take place this summer not in one country but, for the first time, in 12 cities right across Europe. The assumption is that the Euros can, not without difficulties and knock-on effects for the people working on the tournament, be moved to 2021, vacating the 12 June to 12 July schedule this summer to allow more time for club competitions potentially to be completed.
If the men’s European Championship does move to summer 2021, what will happen to the women’s Euros scheduled for next summer in England?
This is all still far from fully worked out, as the crisis has engulfed European countries so suddenly. The obvious question if the men’s Euros is moved to next summer is whether the women’s tournament, due to be played from 7 July to 1 August the same summer, can still be run, or should itself be moved to the following year, 2022. As the 2022 World Cup is taking place in Qatar beginning in November, the summer of a World Cup year is unusually free. This is not an urgent decision the football authorities need to take now, and it will ultimately depend on logistics next year, and possibly any financial impact of the reorganised calendar. Also scheduled for June 2021, with impacts and practicalities to be considered, are the Nations League finals, and the Under-21 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia.
What is likely to happen to the Champions League and Europa League?
That is a more difficult decision than moving the summer Euros, and is impossible to make now given the increasing lockdowns and travel restrictions across Europe. Different scenarios are being modelled by Uefa’s competition department, with the emphasis on trying to get the competitions finished if possible. The idea of a stripped-down quarter-final round of one tie, with a semi-final and final played over a long weekend in one city, is being canvassed, but nothing of this complexity can possibly be played or even planned yet. Several sources at the different organisations said they expect the meeting to produce agreements to work on solutions, and some of the practical crises facing the game, including the financial impact of grinding to a halt. One said he hopes tomorrow will be a “genuine consultation” with further discussions to follow.
What will be said about the national league competitions?
The European Leagues and European Club Association are most concerned about the suspension of their own national leagues, and how they might be concluded. Within the Premier League and EFL, and across Europe, there is obviously a principal intention, reflected in their official positions, that they try to complete their seasons, however this can be done. Having a month vacated by Uefa will help, and one idea is to simply resume playing whenever leagues can, try to extend players’ contracts, and continue until their competitions are complete, however out of sync with the normal calendar. The suggestion of West Ham’s vice-chair Karren Brady to consider the season null and void has not gone down well within football, and seems to have strengthened resolve to try to get the season concluded somehow.