Chelsea were scheduled to play FC Salzburg in a couple weeks, in the opening round of the reformatted UEFA Youth League.
But having first reorganized the competition into a purely knockout format with no group stage, UEFA have now decided to simply cancel the competition due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Andy Myers’ boys thus won’t be able to test their mettle in Europe this season due to unavoidable external circumstances, which is unfortunate.
(Ed.note: on the surface, this seems like a prudent decision, but UEFA have pressed on with other unadvisable choices, such as still planning to hold a multi-city, multi-country European Championships in the summer. The difference between that and this is of course, m.o.n.e.y. It does make the world go round after all.)
UEFA cite the ever-changing health regulations as the reason, with travelling restrictions causing major complications and two clubs having had to already withdraw from the competition.
There is no space to accommodate any further delay in the competition apparently, with the Executive Committee putting the health and safety of youth players above all.
Since the decision of the UEFA Executive Committee to play the UEFA Youth League 2020/21 as a straight knock-out competition as of March 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic and the related measured imposed by health authorities around Europe have continued to evolve. Following the UYL R64 draw in January 2021, UEFA has been in particular monitoring the travel restrictions affecting the participating clubs in their respective matches very closely.
Unfortunately, the situation is not yet evolving positively across Europe and the attitude of the governments towards travel restrictions has become more inflexible as we are experiencing also in the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. Moreover, we have increasingly received over the past few days concerns raised by several of this season’s participating clubs regarding their ability to travel or to stage matches.
We strongly believe that the health and safety of people must be given priority, and, to our regret, we have to conclude that the conditions to restart the UEFA Youth League are not met in the current circumstances. As a rescheduling and reformatting has already been made, there would be no possibilities to further postpone the start of the competition during this season. Consequently, the UEFA Executive Committee took the decision to cancel the 2020/21 UEFA Youth League.
While we know that many of you may be disappointed, we hope you can understand this difficult decision. We are fully aware of the importance of this competition for the development of your players and academies and the significance for the overall growth and development of the game.
We thank you very much for your efforts and collaboration in the past weeks and wish you all the best for your youth domestic championships. We look forward to seeing your club in the coming future at the UEFA Youth League.
-UEFA statement; source: Chelsea FC