Uefa has confirmed national leagues will not be banned from European competition if they cancel their seasons and must decide for themselves how to determine final placings “based on sporting merit”.
The emergency rules were announced after a meeting of Uefa’s executive committee and mark a stark shift in approach from European football’s governing body. The top line remains a “strong recommendation” to finish the season, and even suggests a preference for adopting a different format, such as a play-off, before cancelling. But as the coronavirus crisis deepens there is an acceptance that national competitions – with Scotland and the Netherlands foremost among them – are facing extraordinary circumstances.
Uefa has laid out two primary conditions under which it would accept the abandonment of a league. The first would involve being instructed to do so by a government, which is the case in the Netherlands; the second is “insurmountable economic problems”. Uefa’s announcement cites a request from Scottish football authorities for clarity on the rules. The Scottish Premiership is now expected to bring its season to an end.
In a statement Uefa said: “The ideal scenario, should the pandemic situation permit it, is to have the currently suspended domestic competitions completed … in their original format. Should this outcome not be possible, 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.”
The statement goes on, however: “While using best efforts to complete the domestic competitions, national associations and/or leagues might have legitimate reasons to prematurely terminate their domestic competitions.”
Uefa then requests that, if terminated leagues are to submit clubs to European competition in the 2021-22 season , they do so “based on sporting merit”, determining final placings “on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principles”. While leaving open some flexibility, the recommendation would seem to encourage a solution where an incomplete league table is organised on a points-per-game basis.
Uefa says it reserves the right to refuse nations or clubs to compete in the Champions League and Europa League if these criteria have not been met. It stipulates a further reason for termination that may be acceptable; namely if it has been done on “the basis of any other legitimate public health reasons”.
This final clause will be interpreted by some as leaving open the possibility for even the biggest leagues to stop their seasons should the pandemic not allow a safe resumption of competition.
Uefa also announced it would be advancing €70m (£61.2m) from its “national team competition revenues” to clubs which released players for the European qualifiers and the Nations League. It was also confirmed that the men’s European Championship will retain the name Euro 2020 despite having been rescheduled for the following year.