There are so many questions surrounding the future of sport right now, but what about soccer in particular?
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From player contracts to dates for upcoming seasons and fans attending games, a lot is up in the air at least for the next 12 months as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Until a vaccine arrives against COVID-19, like all walks of life, soccer will have to change plenty of things. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.
During this suspension soccer has had to hit a reset button and now that everything is on the table and things can be changed, what questions should those in power at FIFA, UEFA and national governing bodies work on?
Below we take a look at the biggest questions being asked in the soccer world right now. Feel free to ask your own in the comments below.
What will happen to players out of contract on July 1?
The most pressing issue is this. FIFA have said players and clubs should be allowed to extend their deals until the end of the 2019-20 season but there is no clear directive. It is just a suggestion as to how it should work. On a league-by-league basis things will be different and there is the very real possibility in La Liga and the Premier League that players will leave on July 1 when they are out of contract, even though the season may have resumed.
What about loan players?
This is a really tricky one. Like player contracts, most players will have signed loan deals until July 1 but FIFA has also said these can be extended to the end of the 2019-20 season. Can teams afford the wages of their loan players for an extra few months? Will they be able to play for their parent club if they have to return? Lots of questions remain here as Odion Ighalo and others have been left in limbo.
When and how can fans return?
A report from the UK says fans could return to Premier League games in some capacity by October but that seems hopeful. In reality, most leagues around the world will not allow fans to attend games until early 2021 when, hopefully, a vaccine has arrived.
How can international competitions take place?
With the men’s and women’s European championships moved back one year each, plus Copa America and the expanded Club World Cup impacted, can international competitions take place anymore? Is this the end of international games until there is a vaccine? Games at neutral venues could be an option and with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on the horizon, qualification for that tournament is set to begin. CONCACAF are already talking about a very different qualifying tournament for the 2022 World Cup. When it comes to the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, does it make more sense to go back to a straight knockout tournament rather than group stage soccer?
Will transfer fees recover?
Some leading executives claim that the value of players has plummeted and transfer fees everywhere have hit rock bottom. Will they recover? Again, if things get back to ‘normal’ in 12 months or so after a vaccine, they should. But what if soccer decides that huge transfer fees aren’t the way forward and clubs start to swap players more often? It is a legitimate financial question, as this situation has shown up how vulnerable the finances of even the biggest clubs in the world are.
Should players prepare for smaller wages?
With players taking wage cuts and deferrals to help out their clubs in this time of need, they should prepare for smaller salaries in the future. If teams aren’t able to extra cash from selling tickets to fans, merchandise and beer on matchdays, then revenues will fall and players won’t be paid as much. Wages will still be high but there’s no doubt players will be paid less when their next contract negotiation is discussed.
What about dates for the 2020-21 season and beyond?
If and when the 2019-20 seasons are completed in leagues around the world, what happens for 2020-21? A September or October start date seems likely for many and there’s also the issue of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which is due to start in November and run through December. Should the soccer calendar align so that the 2021-22 domestic season ends in October or November? Then the season 2022-23 season would start in January? It is just an idea but there are severe scheduling issues to sort out in the years to come.
Five substitutes a long-term option?
FIFA have said five substitutes will be allowed in 2019-20 and the 2020-21 campaigns to help fight player fatigue as they’re likely to be asked to roll from the end of this season straight into next season. Should the five sub rule stick around after that? It’s not a bad idea for this situation and if two of the subs can only be made at half time, there is no real change to the flow of the game.