UEFA has said it’s “premature and not justified” for domestic leagues to cancel their campaigns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Leaders from European football’s governing body wrote a letter after Belgium became the first country to announce plans to cancel its 2019-20 top-flight campaign because of the outbreak.
Rob Harris of the Associated Press quoted a passage from the letter, which was signed by UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, European Club Association (ECA) chairman Andrea Agnelli and European Leagues (EL) president Lars-Christer Olsson:
“We are confident that football can restart in the months to come — with conditions that will be dictated by public authorities — and believe that any decision of abandoning domestic competitions is, at this stage, premature and not justified.”
Each team in the Jupiler Pro League has one regular-season match remaining on their calendar, though Belgium’s top division also usually comprises a play-off format that runs until late May.
Club Brugge—who led by 15 points before football was suspended due to the coronavirus—are set to be crowned champions. Waasland-Beveren were two points adrift at the bottom and could have secured survival on the last day of the season but will now be relegated to the second tier if Belgium’s plans to finish early are confirmed by a general assembly on April 15.
ESPN FC's Dale Johnson detailed Belgium's football authorities were acting upon medical advice:
UEFA added the focus is on finishing 2019-20 campaigns in “scenarios encompassing the months of July and August.” It was recently confirmed the Champions League and Europa League are postponed “until further notice” and look likely to resume once all domestic seasons are finished. The letter continued:
“It is of paramount importance that even a disruptive event like this epidemic does not prevent our competitions from being decided on the field, in accordance with their rules and that all sporting titles are awarded on the basis of results. As responsible leaders in our sport, this is what we must ensure, until the last possibility exists and whilst planning, operational and regulatory solutions are available.”
UEFA initially said the importance of deciding matters on the field meant domestic bodies risked their teams not being allowed to enter continental competitions if they ended their seasons without permission.
However, that no longer appears to be the case, per Johnson:
Representatives from the 20 Premier League clubs are due to hold a video conference on Friday regarding their plans, with a World Cup-style mini-tournament having been mooted as a possibility, with all 92 remaining fixtures being televised.