by Tony Attwood
Uefa is bringing pressure to bear on European leagues by suggesting that any leagues that do not complete their 2019/20 fixtures may be excluded from the Champions League and Europa League for next season. This follows the decision by the Belgian League to abandon the 2019/20 season, and declare the league table as it stood when matches were stopped, the final league table.
Of course this could be a bluff, because Uefa knows perfectly well that if two or more of the top leagues join with Belgium and resist this directive, Uefa will have a Champions League that is not properly representative and will be diminished in value. Sponsors, now under huge financial pressure, might well decide to give the Champions League a miss in 2020/1.
But Uefa needs its money and so is trying the ploy to see what happens, stressing that League games for 2019/20 could continue until as late as August. The point being of course that sponsorship money for 2019/20 has already been paid by the sponsors, so all that matters is arranging things so that sponsors can’t sue for a refund.
What’s more the proposal to return to full action next season takes no account of the financial state of either the clubs or the sponsors. It only reflects the desperate position of Uefa itself which needs the income from the Champions League each year. Without it, Uefa could be in real trouble.
The top men in Uefa wrote, “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.
“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 fulfilment of such condition. Uefa reserves the right to assess the entitlement of clubs to be admitted to the 2020-21 Uefa club competitions, in accordance with the relevant applicable competition regulations.”
Uefa has at least admitted that the current situation is unprecedented, and is not covered by their rulebook, but it retains the belief that it can make up rules as it goes along, and ride roughshod over the financial concerns of the clubs, and the public health implications.
So the plan remains to complete the national leagues, then complete the Champions League and Europa League immediately after that.
But of course finances play a part in all this, and indeed so desperate is the financial situation in football across Europe becoming that it seems the Premier League is now ready to consider even the most bonkers approach to getting money – although they are not quite ready for us to talk about it yet.
For their solution would be to order all the Premier League clubs to put their squads into isolated hotels.
Then, day after day after day there would be a series of games, all of which would be available to be televised, so that the clubs did not have to pay back the TV companies to compensate for the lack of games.
Thus each match day would run across maybe three days, and would be played behind closed doors, but every game would have its own individual slot on TV.
The idea is that just two locations would be used so the old home/away idea would be abandoned, and because of the isolation, it would be possible (they claim) to keep the virus infections under control.
The whole process would last two months, take the players through to the end of the season, satisfy broadcasters and sponsors, and allow the clubs then to move back into their own grounds and start the 2020/1 season straight away.
Meanwhile, of course, the transfer window would also be open, so players would be moving from one club to another during the process – just like old times!
There are however multiple problems with this rough-shod approach. The TV audiences for three or four matches a day across a three day period, followed by three or four matches a day over the next three day period, and on and on to the end of the season, might well be way below the normal numbers that TV stations get. Likewise, sponsors have paid to have their logos etc seen by the paying public as well as by the TV audience.
Plus squads could well be stretched to the limits in order to play at this rate while being holed up in hotels and unable to see friends and family. OK they do it in the world cup, but even then the gaps are bigger, and half the countries involved go home after three games.
A court case or two could well be in the offing if Uefa try to push this through.
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