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UEFA threatens Belgian league with European expulsion

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Following the announcement that the Belgian top flight had cancelled the remainder of its league season, UEFA has put all member nations on notice with multiple public announcements that warned there would be consequences if a federation did not exhaust all options before calling time on its domestic competition.

The continental governing body issued a letter that threatened any league making such decisions at this time could be kicked out of European competition. “Any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified,” the letter wrote. “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 fulfillment of such condition.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin also went on German broadcast channel ZDF and made similarly strong statements, urging that all member nations must remain united in their response to this catastrophe.

“Solidarity is not a one-way street,” he told German public broadcaster ZDF. “The Belgians and any others who might be thinking about it now are risking their participation in European competitions next season.”

The Belgian league was suspended with just one matchday remaining in its regular season, although the league does utilize playoffs to determine a champion. With the cancellation of the remainder of its league season, Club Brugge has been named the champion, with the team 15 points ahead at the top of the table. “The board of directors unanimously decided that it was not desirable, whatever the scenario envisaged, to continue the competition after 30 June,” the league said in a statement.

Teams are facing a potential web of legal entanglement should the season extend beyond June 30, which is looking more and more likely with each passing week. All player contracts across Europe are drafted with that deadline and playing beyond that date will take an exceptional amount of concession by all parties involved.

Club Brugge played this season in the Champions League, finishing bottom of a difficult Group A that included Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, and Galatasaray. Gent, who sits in second, is also looking at a possible spot in the Champions League next season, entering in the third qualifying round. They played in this season’s competition as well, earning just a single point from Group E play against Liverpool, Napoli, and RB Salzburg.

The league’s one Europa League spot is determined in a more complicated format that features two different playoff rounds, with the winners playing in a one-off match to determine a winner, would likely go to third-place finisher Charleroi. Usual Belgian power Standard Liege finishes the season in a disappointing fifth, 21 points back of the top spot.

European bodies implore member associations to wait to abandon seasons

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UEFA is speaking up regarding its hope to finish club seasons once the environment is safer.

Sky Sports reports that UEFA has sent a letter to its 55 members associations imploring them not to cancel their competitions early and that they exhaust all options “until the last possibility exists.”

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The letter is signed by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli and European Leagues president Lars-Christer Olsson.

The report comes as the Belgian Super League reportedly prepares to award its league title to Club Brugge on April 15. The league would be the first to see its season abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From Sky Sports:

“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.”

Many leagues, such as the Premier League, continue to suspend their seasons indefinitely as they wait for improvements with the coronavirus pandemic.

Although UEFA have relaxed their previous stance that domestic seasons should be finished by June 30, it is looking more likely that the 2019-20 season would need until August or September.

UEFA postpones all June international matches amid coronavirus

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Following a meeting of all 55 member nations on Wednesday, UEFA announced the postponement of all June international matches, among a number of other decisions as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc throughout the soccer calendar.

The summer international calendar included the pushed back Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs, but those have now been put on hold indefinitely and it is possible there will be no international games played until September.

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In addition, the Champions League and Europa League competitions have both been suspended indefinitely, no longer tying a potential return to a specific date. Nothing else has been confirmed regarding the competitions, but there are reports swirling that the resumption of the Champions League and Europa League would come with games behind closed doors, potentially all the way through the finals of the competitions.

The European governing body had already pushed back Euro 2020 to next summer in an effort to make room to finish the domestic seasons, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues to linger, questions are mounting over the possibility of finishing all competitions at a later date or if there is simply not enough time. Reports continue to stream in that UEFA significantly favors finishing domestic competitions over all else.

UEFA did announce that all registration deadlines for international club competitions have been suspended indefinitely as well, throwing the summer transfer window into further disarray as well.

“As a result of the increasing uncertainty generated by the ongoing extraordinary events,” UEFA said in its statement, “the Executive Committee also decided to suspend the club licensing provisions that relate to the preparation and assessment of clubs’ future financial information. This decision applies exclusively for participation in the 2020/21 UEFA club competitions.”

Games continue in Belarusian Premier League

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The Belarusian Premier League is pretty much out on its own when it comes to sports leagues across the world.

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Games in the top-flight of the Eastern European nation have continued despite the coronavirus pandemic causing devastation across the world.

Belarus is the only nation in Europe where soccer games are going ahead and at the weekend the Minsk derby between FC Minsk and Dinamo Minsk drew a crowd of over 3,000.

So far there have been less than 100 reported cases of coronavirus in Belarus and zero deaths but soccer authorities are still providing special precautions for the games to be played.

The Belarus Football Federation have secured TV deals from 10 countries due to games still being played, with channels in India, Russia and Israel picking up the games and fans across the world choosing teams in Belarus to support over the next few weeks.

Seemingly to give the Belarusian Premier League as much exposure as possible, all nine games this weekend are spread out across individual time slots from Friday to Sunday so you can watch them all.

Just in case you fancy watching some sport this weekend, here’s the schedule for the third matchweek of the 2020 Belarusian Premier League season. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d be typing.

Belarusian Premier League

Belshina v. Gorodeya – Friday, 10 a.m. ET
Dinamo Minsk v. Torpedo-Belaz Zhodino – Friday, 12 p.m. ET
Shakhtyor v. Neman – Saturday, 8:30 a.m. ET
BATE v. Ruh Brest – Saturday, 10 a.m. ET
Dinamo Brest v. Slavia-Mozyr – Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET
Energetik-BGU v. Minsk – Sunday, 7 a.m. ET
Vitebsk v. Smolevichi-STI – Sunday, 9 a.m. ET
Isloch v. Slutsk – Sunday, 11 a.m. ET

‘Season will be lost’ if it doesn’t resume by July

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The president of UEFA has warned the current season will be ‘lost’ if it doesn’t resume by July as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread across Europe and the world.

Aleksander Ceferin has been talking about the scenarios for when the domestic and European competitions can resume and it is clear there is a small window of opportunity for each league in Europe to complete their 2019-20 campaigns.

Speaking to Italian outlet La Repubblica, Ceferin confirmed that he has a few plans in mind but with many leagues seasons expected to resume later in the summer, if at all, time is running out before the attention must switch to 2020-21.

“Nobody knows when the pandemic will end. We have a plan A, B or C: to restart in mid-May, in June or at the end of June. If then we wouldn’t be able to do any of these, the season would probably be lost,” Ceferin said. “There is also the possibility of ending this season at the start of the next, which would then be postponed, starting a little later. We’re in touch with the leagues, the clubs, there is a working group and we’ll see what solution is best for all. We have to wait, like any other sector.”

Right now, the situation which would see the end of this season resuming at the start of next season seems the most likely.

A report has already stated that the 2019-20 Premier League season could resume at the start of July and the final nine games of the season would be played out across 4-6 weeks and act as a preseason for the 2020-21 campaign.

The main issue to sort out is player contracts as many are contracted until July 1 before becoming free agents. What happens to those players? Will players sign short-term contracts? What about loan deals? FIFA and UEFA will no doubt have to sort out all of those finer details but that is all secondary.

Right now the main thing on the mind of leagues across the world is when, if ever, they can finish the 2019-20 seasons. It is looking increasingly likely that there will be just a short period of time to get the season finished but if just one player or coach tests positive for coronavirus during that period, the whole league would have to shut down again.