Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spread across the globe, the whole sports world, including the football scene has been put to a halt to avoid putting the health and wellbeing of the players, fans and everyone involved at risk. This unfortunately also means there are no football matches played in any of the major football leagues, which also includes the most prestigious football tournament of the year, the UEFA Champions League.
A disease that started to spread in China in late December did not need long to reach the European continent, which ushered all sports event organisers, including UEFA, to cease their operations and put the football season to a halt. This, of course, started to raise questions about this season’s Champions League and Europa League competitions; what does the so-called break mean and when will the two tournaments resume?
There were initial concerns both competitions could be axed, however, UEFA made it public knowledge that postponing the EURO for 2021 will not only alleviate the pressure of public health protocol but would also allow clubs to complete their respective domestic leagues. We did not get any news about UEFA’s plans with Champions League up until the start of April, when UEFA invited the General Secretaries of its 55 member associations to an online conference, where they discussed options regarding the rescheduling of the matches, while also discussing progress on other matter such as transfer system and player contracts.
The conference has ended successfully, and we finally got some answers, which might not be something many had expected to hear, yet it’s hard to be too picky in these times.
When will UEFA Champions League 2019/20 take place?
While it’s not set in stone just yet, UEFA has unveiled the spectacle is slated to be played at Ataturk Olympic Stadium, Istanbul, on June 27, 2020. Having said that, there are no news regarding where and how the remaining matches will be played.
On a more positive note, the rescheduling of Euros to 2021, means there is plenty of free time, which allows domestic European clubs to (potentially) finish their respective leagues by June. But then again, we have to consider that UEFA were initially planning on European club leagues to resume by mid-April, which obviously won’t happen and most likely won’t happen for a while, seeing how the UK is yet to reach the peak of COVID-19 devastation. What’s more UK government has recently implemented a ban on mass gatherings if people in order to prevent further spread of the virus, so we can be sure, English Premier League and its lower competitions won’t be returning anytime soon.
The situation in Germany, Spain in Italy is not all too promising either, although, recent reports suggest Italy and Spain are already past its COVID-19 peak, so perhaps that’s a positive to take from this.
What will happen with UCL knockout stage matches?
Probably the most burning question among the football fans is how will be the UCL knockout matches be decided and when and where will the matches be played?
UEFA have yet to address this issue as they have no solid answer prepared to it. Although seeing how UEFA are already running on a very limited schedule and trying to find a way to fit in both European and domestic fixtures into one schedule, it’s highly likely we might see an alternative approach to determine the winners of Champions League, as well as Europa League.
One-legged fixtures instead of two-legged home/away format?
There were suggestions that after the UCL last 16 is concluded, the quarter-finals fixtures could be played through one-legged fixtures instead of two-legged home/away format. Although not the optimal solution, the shortened tournament would, in theory, at least allow for UCL to conclude and crown the 2020 champion. No matter how this problem is resolved, UEFA have announced they will do their best to conclude the 2019/20 campaign by any means necessary.
That said, UEFA’s president Aleksander Ceferin stated that if the competitions cannot be concluded by the start of August, a cancellation might be on the cards for both UCL and Europa League.
“It must finish by August 3, both the Champions League and Europa League,” said Ceferin.
“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.
“We could play with the current system, or in one-off matches 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.”