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UEFA Set Standards for Playing Out or Suspending 2019-20 Season

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Null and void appears off the table as UEFA rule 2019-20 “sporting merit” must determine European placement.

FBL-EUR-UEFA Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

There remains much uncertainty about when, how, or even if the 2019-20 season will be resumed, in England with the Premier League and in leagues big and small across Europe. Today, though, UEFA sought to remove at least some of the uncertainty.

European football’s governing body, following meetings with their members earlier in the week, have released their guidelines. In short, they want to see seasons resumed—and if at all possible for all games to be played out—and offered guidance for what should happen if that isn’t possible.

“UEFA urges National Associations and Leagues to explore all possible options to play all top domestic competitions,” read the statement from UEFA’s Executive Committee. “The ideal scenario, should the pandemic situation permit it, is to have the currently suspended domestic competitions completed.

“Should this outcome not be possible, in particular due to calendar issues, 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.”

For leagues like the Premier League, that could mean seeking to play out a limited number of games in an effort to ensure that, should the current season have to be suspended, no clubs end it with a game in hand. For leagues like the Championship, it could mean staging an early promotion playoff.

Meanwhile, UEFA further ruled that whatever happens, teams cannot qualify for the next edition of the Champions League or Europa League via anything other than the results of the 2019-20 season—whether it is played out in full, in part, or has to be abandoned.

“If a domestic competition is prematurely terminated for legitimate reasons in accordance with the above conditions,” the statement read, “UEFA would require the National Association concerned to select clubs for the UEFA club competitions 2020/21 based on sporting merit in the 2019/20 domestic competitions.”

In order to maintain sporting integrity, a season that has been 75% played out must count for something. It seems inarguably self-evident, but it’s a ruling that should at least reassure Liverpool fans that, whether it’s awarded in a boardroom or on the pitch, the club will win the 2019-20 Premier League title.

It also would appear to guarantee a Champions League place for Leicester City, a European place for Sheffield United, and promotion for Leeds United. On the other hand, for any club that might have regained a European place via a null and void season, it is a potentially major financial blow.