Paris – UEFA have made a move towards clearing the decks for the return of club football by announcing on Wednesday that all international matches that had been pushed back to June have now been postponed until further notice.
“This includes the play-off matches for UEFA Euro 2020 and qualifying matches for UEFA Women’s Euro 2021,” said European football’s governing body in a statement.
“All other UEFA competition matches, including the centralised international friendly matches, remain postponed until further notice.”
The decision followed a videoconference with Europe’s 55 member federations as part of discussions on how to adapt the fixture calendar in the face of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The play-off semi-finals and finals that are supposed to decide the last four qualifying berths for the next European Championship were initially postponed at the end of March and pencilled in provisionally for June.
That was “subject to a review of the situation” amid uncertainty over how the pandemic will develop and whether many European countries currently in lockdown will be able to return to some kind of normality.
Friendlies that will not now go ahead include England’s matches in Austria and at home to Romania in early June.
– Finishing season is ‘priority’ –
However, UEFA have also stated a determination to finish all domestic and club competitions by June 30.
While that currently looks ambitious, clearing the international fixtures from the same month does buy some more time as they aim to complete the Champions League and Europa League competitions as well as domestic leagues.
“The federations agreed to hand over the international window in June (two dates) to the leagues so they can complete domestic competitions. Finishing the current season is a priority for UEFA as much as it is for the federations,” said the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in a statement.
Carrying the season on beyond June 30 runs the risk of clubs losing their out-of-contract players before matches have been completed, unless a solution can be found.
“There is a very strong case to be made that it should be in everybody’s interests to as much as possible extend those,” said Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, the general secretary of global players’ union FIFPro, when asked about the issue of expiring player contracts in a conference call on Tuesday.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin told Italian daily La Repubblica at the weekend that football “could start again in mid-May, in June or even late June” but that any time after that and “the season will probably be lost.”
However, the Spanish federation also revealed that UEFA have laid the ground for playing club football in July and August should a June return not prove feasible.
The impact of the pandemic on Europe has already forced UEFA to put Euro 2020 back 12 months, while the women’s Euro 2021 has also been postponed.
According to the RFEF and the Danish Football Association, agreement has been reached for the women’s Euro 2021, due to be hosted by England, to be played in 2022. The next men’s under-21 Euro will also go ahead in 2022, they said.
UEFA also said that the men’s and women’s Under-17 and Under-19 European Championships, scheduled for this May and July respectively, were postponed until further notice.