Just a few weeks ago, UEFA were tentatively penciling in a Champions League final for late June in hopes that we could still finish the 2019-20 season before the usual June 30th deadline. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic still in its early stages in much (if not all?) of Europe, it seems clear that we’ll be lucky to get a Champions League final at all this year.
Given all the contractual, legal, and sporting considerations involved in the very top levels of the professional game, it also seems clear that the only reasonable solution is to keep delaying the season until it is deemed safe to play, and then adjust the calendar(s) for subsequent season(s) — shortening where possible and cancelling frivolous competitions like the League Cup.
That seems to be the latest thinking over at UEFA as well, with reports this weekend talking about the latest contingency plan that would stretch the current season into August, two months past the usual June 30 deadline (around which practically all contracts in football are created). But, figuring out how to deal with a two-month extension is probably still more feasible than simply annulling the previous nine months and cancelling the remaining two.
“There is the possibility of ending this season at the start of the next, which would then be delayed and begin later.”
-Alexander Ceferin; UEFA president; source: La Repubblica via Times
As reported by The Times, this contingency, which is one of several under discussion and consideration in what is very much a fluid situation with an unknown but clearly moving target, would involve starting next season with a reduced calendar in September. It’s not clear how long of a break we’d get between the two seasons (if any), or when a transfer window would be conducted — or if we’d just keep it an open market all the way through January as one report suggested last week.
“I don’t see why there should not be a flexible approach by everyone to finish this season in the proper manner no matter how long it takes. Domestically there is a lot of money at stake which would have a massive impact for the game — we’re talking about three-quarters of a billion pounds in TV money.”
-Gordon Taylor; PFA chief: source: Times
One thing we can all definitely agree on, is that a flexible approach will be needed from all. From the teams, from the money-men, from the fans, and the players themselves, who could face the prospect of having to play, train, and live behind closed doors for a period while the matches are conducted without live audiences.
Things won’t be normal for a while, and that will require concessions from us all.