The Premier League faces the prospect of deciding Champions League positions and relegation spots in one-off ties – if the season is not able successfully reach a conclusion this summer.
UEFA, following a meeting on Thursday, developed guidelines for clubs across the continent as the governing body look to formulate a plan to get the 2019-20 seasons finished.
All of Europe’s top five leagues are currently suspended due to the global coronavirus pandemic and each of them remain incomplete, with league titles, Champions League spots and relegation positions all still to be decided.
Premier League teams may be forced to settle final 2019-20 league positions by play-off matches if the season cannot resume, following Thursday morning’s UEFA meeting
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin chaired a meeting of Europe’s governing body on Thursday
The current proposed state for the future of Europe’s top leagues is varied – some are set to resume on the dates shown while others are making judgement calls about cancellations
UEFA announced that it is ‘preferable that suspended domestic competitions would restart with a different format in a manner which would still facilitate clubs to qualify on sporting merit’.
Liverpool found themselves 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League at the time of the suspension.
Chelsea are sat in fourth, in the final Champions League position, three points clear of Manchester United in fifth, with both teams still with nine games left to play.
Norwich are bottom of the table, six points off safety, while Aston Villa are two points adrift and Bournemouth are in the relegation zone on goal difference.
With UK government lockdown measures recently extended by a further three weeks, it is believed that June 8 is the earliest possible restart date for the Premier League – but that remains a flexible date as football reacts to the state of the virus.
UEFA are keen to see domestic leagues concluded by the start of August at the latest, with that month slated to feature the conclusion of the Champions League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side may need to navigate a one-off play-off to finish in the top four
Aston Villa and Norwich are trying to avoid relegation but are in the bottom three currently
Leagues that are unable to bring about a return to action will be advised to stage one-off play-off games to determine key positions in the table, which would directly affect sides like Chelsea, Manchester United and Sheffield United in the Champions League race.
As part of UEFA’s determination from Thursday’s meeting, they acknowledged that leagues could be prematurely canceled if ‘there is an existence of an official order prohibiting sports events’ by national government.
It was also determined that ‘insurmountable economic problems which make finishing the season impossible because it would put at risk the long-term financial stability of the domestic competition and/or clubs’ was another viable reason to terminate the season immediately, as has happened in countries such as Belgium.
Another proposal that has been offered up is for leagues to make a decision made on points-per-game ratio, according to The Times.
That decision which would secure a Champions League spot next season for the Premier League’s current top four of Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea.
Here’s how the Premier League table would look based on points won per game played
Manchester United and Sheffield United would take the Europa League places, while Arsenal and Tottenham would miss out on European football entirely if the current Premier League season is unable to be completed.
The plan for the ongoing Champions League appears to have been determined at a preliminary meeting on Tuesday.
Suspended at the last-16 stage, the plan is to complete Europe’s premier club competition in 26 days with the final taking place in Istanbul on August 29.
What UEFA’s proposals will do is increase the pressure on leagues around Europe to figure out whether they can realistically complete the rest of their seasons without posing a health risk.
In the Bundesliga, where a decision on the outcome of the season was made today, all of the teams in the top half of the division have played the same amount of games, meaning the standings would remain the same.
As things stand in Germany, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach would take the country’s top four spots and a place in next season’s Champions League.
It is thought that the Champions League final date will be agreed for August 29 in Istanbul
In Italy’s Serie A, some top teams have played fewer games than others, but the positions would remain the same if a points-per-game tally was applied.
That means that Lazio would be a surprise qualifier for next season’s Champions League alongside table-toppers Juventus, Inter Milan and Atalanta if UEFA’s plan is put in place and the season doesn’t finish.
Roma and Napoli would be put into the Europa League, a decision that would likely disappoint both given they still had games to turn their season around and secure a place in Europe’s premier competition.
It would be even worse for AC Milan, who would miss out on European football altogether with UEFA’s plan.
Thursday’s meeting of UEFA’s executive committee was led by president Alexander Ceferin and held via a videoconference from 9am and it has now increased pressure on the Premier League to bring a return to action, concluding the remaining nine round of fixtures.