UEFA meeting: What now for Euro 2020 and domestic football?
Key decisions will be made on the future of European football today as the coronavirus pandemic continues
By Sky Sports Football
Last Updated: 17/03/20 1:13pm
UEFA is holding emergency meetings with representatives of European clubs and leagues and national federations today with a view to making decisions on this summer's European football schedule in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic has already prompted the mass postponement of both domestic and international football fixtures across the continent.
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But what happens next? And what are the possible scenarios and time frames for the resumption of football?
How and where will the meetings take place?
The threat of the coronavirus means Tuesday's meetings will take place remotely, via video conference call.
They will be led by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and his operational leadership team and will involve the European Club Association, which represents almost 250 clubs across the continent, including Premier League sides such as Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle and Tottenham, the European Leagues, which represent 32 leagues, including the Premier League and EFL, and all 55 of UEFA's member associations.
The final decisions on what happens next will be taken by the UEFA Executive Committee, which includes UEFA vice-chairman and former Manchester United chief executive David Gill.
UEFA had finished their first call with the European Club Association and European Leagues by 11am and their next call - with the 55 member associations - was due to take place at midday.
The final call will be with the UEFA Executive Committee, with a decision expected this afternoon.
Is there any hope for Euro 2020?
Almost certainly not. The tournament, which was due to be played in 12 European cities between June and July, will be the main focus of the meeting and the most likely outcome is that it will be postponed until the summer of 2021.
This would provide more time for the domestic football season to be completed and UEFA is under pressure to allow that to happen.
A statement from the European Leagues body, which represents the Premier League, EFL and Scottish Professional Football League, read: "It is most essential that domestic competitions can be completed this season, to limit the negative impact for the entire football ecosystem.
"This crisis is also causing very serious sporting and financial consequences to all parties involved in the game. We are ready to cooperate with UEFA and other stakeholders to find common solutions to all these issues in a constructive way, including the international club competitions and Euro 2020."
We already know that Italy, one of the countries in which the outbreak has been most severe, will be supporting the notion of postponing Euro 2020.
Gabriele Gravina, the president of the Italian Football Federation, told Sports Mediaset: "We will propose to UEFA the delay of the European Championships.
"We will try to get to the end of this [domestic] championship because it is fairer and more correct after the many investments and sacrifices of our clubs."
"What is clear is that Euro 2020 is the key question," said Bryan Swanson, Sky Sports News' chief news reporter. "Whatever is decided, we'll see a knock-on effect in terms of other competitions, from domestic competitions to the Women's Euros, which is due to take place in England next summer.
"We're always talking about the start of a season in August but people in the game have suggested that we might have to think about the season starting later in the year if we want to end competitions. We could see a winter Euros - remember, we have Qatar in 2022, which will be in November.
"But there are huge financial implications too for Euro 2020, even though people in the game know that talking about money at a time like this doesn't sit easily.
"Nearly 400 people work on fixed-term contracts to deliver the Euros. Associations are each expected to earn more than £12m from a fund that's meant to help with programmes in the game. Who absorbs the cost? The 24 nations who qualified were each expected to receive around £8m just for qualifying - some of the bigger nations like England and Germany could probably absorb that but some of the smaller nations desperately need the income.
"UEFA represent all 55 nations so they have to make a decision that is best for the collective rather than the high-profile few."
'Domestic leagues most important'
Former EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey, speaking on The Debate on Monday on Sky Sports News…
"For UEFA to be talking to all the individual organisations in this level of detail shows how important this to the game, in this instance in Europe, but actually across the world. They will take the views of everybody.
"I sat on the board of the European leagues for 12 months and every single one of them will be saying that their domestic league competition is the most important thing. It's not cup competitions, it's not Euro 2020 and it's not anything else. It's the domestic competition in their country because it is the bread and butter for each individual club. You can be certain that the leagues will be saying we need to find a way of finishing our seasons and then looking at what the future holds. I think there will be a big push, and we’ve seen it from the Italians already, who have said they will be suggesting Euro 2020 should be postponed.
"Now, if Euro 2020 is postponed, we’ve talked about creating this framework and space for the decision-making process, that is what creates dates to enable clubs then to get into the position to discuss what we do next."
When will domestic football return?
Any football fans hoping for concrete decisions on when domestic leagues will resume are likely to be disappointed.
The Premier League and EFL initially postponed games until April 3, but that date is likely to be pushed back and UEFA is not in a position to agree new dates given the continued uncertainty around the outbreak.
This uncertainty was acknowledged in a statement by the EFL on Monday: "Whilst the League and its Board understand there is a strong desire from both the media and general public to understand what may happen next, there have, at this current time, been no decisions taken.
"The League also feels it inappropriate to respond to the many hypothetical solutions being suggested whilst the many unknowns remain. Given the fast-paced environment and parameters we are currently working within, it is simply not practical to give a running commentary on what may happen."
“It’s the biggest ever test for FIFA and UEFA. Obviously, FIFA, down the years, have come in for a lot of criticism, UEFA too, and rightly so. This is a great chance for them to show strong leadership and make the right decisions."
Alan Smith, speaking on The Debate on Sky Sports News
What about the Premier League specifically?
The Premier League is holding its own emergency meeting on Thursday in an attempt to establish plans for the remainder of the season.
The postponement of Euro 2020 would theoretically allow the remaining Premier League fixtures to be played during the summer.
But there has been criticism of the idea of playing games behind closed doors and a senior source at one Premier League club has told Sky Sports there is a "75 per cent chance" that the season will not be completed.
The most drastic option in that scenario would be to declare the season null and void, which would mean it was wiped from the record books entirely, paving the way for the new campaign to begin from scratch.
Another mooted alternative would be to use the current standings to finalise the title, European places and relegation, thereby awarding Liverpool the title and relegating Bournemouth, Aston Villa and Norwich.
Another idea is for the new Premier League season to begin with 22 clubs, with Leeds and West Brom, the top two in the Sky Bet Championship, being awarded promotion and five teams being relegated in 2020/21.
This would require major re-working of the football calendar, however. It would also rankle with other Championship clubs involved in the fight for promotion and have knock-on effects further down the football pyramid.
Clubs are sure to have differing views about what happens next, adding to the complexity of the decision-making process.
What will happen with this season's Champions League and Europa League?
As for European football, one option put forward at tomorrow's meetings will be a mini-tournament to decide the Champions League and Europa League in order ease fixture congestion.
UEFA is determined to complete this season's competitions and will also consider one-leg quarter-finals and semi-finals.
Playing the remaining games over a handful of days in one or two cities is another option being considered in order to minimise travel requirements and cause less disruption to domestic leagues.
"Ultimately UEFA want to finish their competitions from an integrity point of view," said Swanson. "They don't want to make anything null and void. They will do everything possible to finish the Champions League and Europa League.
"Quite when, nobody knows. We can probably expect a holding statement on Tuesday because the focus will be on the Euros.
"People in the game don't know what will happen - but they know they've got to plan."