GENEVA (AP) — UEFA softened its tone Tuesday toward organizers of national leagues and cups who want to end seasons early before completing all games.
With no clear end in sight for European soccer’s shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic, Belgium was the first top-tier league this month to say it wanted to declare its current standings final.
That prompted a quick response from UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, who warned that countries risked losing Champions League and Europa League entries if they took premature decisions.
After hosting talks with 55 member federations Tuesday, UEFA’s directive was toned down to “a strong recommendation“ to try to complete domestic seasons.
UEFA’s new stance is that “some special cases will be heard.”
“With this in mind, UEFA is currently developing some guidelines concerning participation in its club competitions, in order to assist its member associations in case of a canceled league or cup,” Europe’s soccer body said in a statement. An executive committee on Thursday can confirm those guidelines.
Belgian officials are set to resume talks Friday when UEFA’s position is clearer.
Domestic club competitions aim to play into July and August — likely in empty stadiums if restarting games is even possible.
UEFA hopes to complete the Champions League and Europa League later in August. Both competitions paused in March during the round of 16.
Options for UEFA could include a Champions League mini-tournament in a single venue. Aug. 29 is a target date for the final originally scheduled for May 30 in Istanbul.
UEFA postponed the 2020 European Championship by one year last month which cleared space for domestic leagues to try to complete the season and fulfil broadcasting contracts.
The playoffs to decide the final four teams to qualify for the 24-team Euros have already postponed twice, and UEFA vice president Sándor Csányi said Tuesday they could be delayed to October or November.
Csányi told Hungarian media those months are options. All 55 UEFA member countries currently have Nations League games scheduled during the October and November international dates.
Hungary was drawn to play at Bulgaria in the playoffs. The winner will host either Iceland or Romania with a place in the final tournament at stake.
Hungary is also one of the 12 Euro 2020 host nations now renewing contracts and logistics to stage their games one year later.
Playing the men’s tournament in June-July 2021, with seven games including the final in London, has taken the slot reserved for the women’s European Championship. That event in England is expected to be postponed to July 2022 on Thursday.