UEFA: Leagues to have power to interpret 'sporting merit' if seasons do not finish

UEFA also confirmed the delayed European Championships, which will be held in the summer of 2021, will still be called Euro 2020

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Sky Sports News' chief reporter Bryan Swanson explains what UEFA’s call for leagues to be decided on sporting merit means for clubs hoping to play European football next season

UEFA has confirmed qualification for the Champions League and Europa League must be decided on 'sporting merit' - but each league and association will have the power to determine how that is interpreted if the season is unable to be finished.

Top UEFA executives met on Thursday to discuss the growing impact of the coronavirus on the game and again issued a "strong recommendation" that domestic seasons across its affiliated associations are completed.

If the season is unable to finish, each league must determine how 'sporting merit' is interpreted and it must be approved by their association.

Article 4 of UEFA's Champions League and Europa League regulations states: "To be eligible to participate in the competition, clubs must have qualified for the competition on sporting merit."

UEFA added in a statement on Thursday: "Sporting merit 'should be based on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principles.'"

But UEFA also said they reserve the right to refuse or evaluate the admission to any club proposed by a national association if there is a public perception of unfairness in the qualification of the club, which would likely rule out the use of UEFA coefficient points.

European football's governing body is keen for leagues to explore potential different formats to finish the season.

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Image: Top UEFA officials met on Thursday to discuss the growing impact of the coronavirus on the game

UEFA said: "It would be preferable that suspended domestic competitions would restart with a different format in a manner which would still facilitate clubs to qualify on sporting merit."

UEFA also confirmed the delayed European Championships, which will be held in the summer of 2021, will still be called Euro 2020.

Analysis: 'UEFA framework - but different formats an intriguing possibility'

Sky Sports News' chief reporter Bryan Swanson:

"What UEFA's executives have tried to do is provide some sort of framework to the 55 member associations - including the FA and the SFA - to determine how domestic leagues should finish and particularly how that affects the qualification for next season's Champions League and Europa League competitions.

"They have said they will only determine qualification based on 'sporting merit' this season. That is in their own guidelines. They are then leaving it for each league, each member association to determine what exactly sporting merit means but what they are saying is that in their words it should mean an 'objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principle' so ultimately it will now come down to each league in Europe to decide, if they cannot finish their season, how they determine those qualification routes.

"But the key message from UEFA remains that they want clubs, leagues and associations to do everything they can to finish the season.

"Interestingly, they've also raised the prospect of different formats. The Executive Committee have said they would prefer a different format to be put in place to finish a season rather than simply cancelling it. That's an intriguing possibility.

"Do we have mini-tournaments? How would that look? Ultimately, it's for the leagues to decide but they do say that they will refuse the right for clubs to participate in next season's European competitions if, in their words, there is a public perception of unfairness."

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