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European football's tense wait to decide on finishing 2019-20 season


Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and with the exception of Belgium, which to the disgust of UEFA has unilaterally put an end to its season and will choose its European representatives for 2020-21 and Belarus, where they are still playing football as if other had happened, the rest of Europe is in the same situation as in Spain: all football is on ice and with everyone hoping that the coronavirus passes as soon as possible. UEFA have already threatened Belgium with not taking part in European competition in 20-21 if they don’t play their league season out to completion.  But the threat has done little to terrify the Netherlands, where they are considering doing the same.

The situation in European football is tense. In certain countries some want to close off the tournaments now, but you can usually see the reasons why they’re saying that. In Italy, the calls tend to come from those at the bottom of the table, hoping to avoid relegation and giving them an excuse to drastically reduce their players’ salaries. In Spain there’s a movement to bring the curtain down now on the 2019/20 season, with no relegation and allowing Cádiz and Zaragoza into the top flight, escaping form the Segunda. These two sides, plus all the Primera teams at risk of going down, plus all the Segunda teams in the same boat make up a pretty big group, pushing in the same direction.

The days pass slowly, full of conference calls, the conclusions of which are that the season needs 15 weeks: two for training, nine for the competitions and four for holidays. Things might need to go into August. That would mean changing FIFA and Christmas dates for 2020-21. But next season can’t go on past 29 May, a commitment to UEFA and CONMEBOL when they moved the Copa América and the European Championships. So the limit to get back to playing is 21 June. After that, the competitions are dead… or could be restarted in the autumn, with a significant alteration to next season. The debate goes on.