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UEFA plan to complete the season with voiding 'off the table'

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SHOW MUST GO ON: Members of the Executive Board of the UEFA are pictured on a wall in Nyon, Switzerland. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

SHOW MUST GO ON: Members of the Executive Board of the UEFA are pictured on a wall in Nyon, Switzerland. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

REUTERS

SHOW MUST GO ON: Members of the Executive Board of the UEFA are pictured on a wall in Nyon, Switzerland. Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Uefa and the collective European leagues are committed to completing the 2019/'20 domestic and continental seasons before 2020/'21 begins, and are now actively planning for the major showpiece finals to be played behind closed doors, with voiding the campaign "off the table".

The governing body staged another video conference yesterday about player contracts and the transfer window amid the coronavirus crisis, but multiple sources have confirmed detailed discussions have already taken place about the fate of this season. All parties are fully aligned with the English view that the campaign must be completed, whenever that is.

The Champions League and Europa League have been suspended "until further notice" with there now also an acceptance that the finals of both will take place in front of empty stadiums.

Uefa has set up two working groups to find solutions to the crisis - one on league logistics, the other on financial matters - and the reasons for the stance on completing 2019/'20 are the exact same as in England: financial; sporting integrity; the mass complications that come with ending seasons prematurely and also the knock-on effect on the many jobs connected to the game.

Like with the Premier League, a significant amount of financial pressure comes from broadcast contracts and the potential loss of tens of millions, but the lack of match-day income is already putting clubs under huge economic stress.

For all the focus on the top leagues, there is a realisation among Uefa and various stakeholders like the European League Association that many clubs are in urgent danger.

Tuesday saw former Slovak champions MSK Zilina go into liquidation after releasing 17 players, while sources in Germany say several big clubs in Bundesliga II are only weeks from going bust, and many are now attempting drastic action.

Survival concerns are thereby the greatest motivation, but there is also a deeper awareness that the longer-term future of the game is dependent on protecting its integrity - something that would be entirely compromised if the 2020/'21 season starts based on arbitrary decisions and positions.

Several sources even maintain that the logistical concerns are such that it would actually be easier to try and complete the season - whenever that may be - than adapt regulations and work out solutions to end campaigns prematurely or void them. There is a realisation it opens legal and technical minefields.

The working groups have thereby been encouraged to find creative ways to finish the seasons, but there is a general acceptance fixtures will have to be played behind closed doors in order for football to continue.

They are also fully aware of the need for flexibility, since any solutions are totally dependent on the spread of the coronavirus crisis.

There's similarly the issue that universal solutions are impossible, since the circumstances differ from country to country, and the advice from every individual government is different.

What works in Germany may not work in especially badly-hit countries like Italy or Spain. Serie A, however, still plans to finish the season despite the extent of the crisis.

Despite that and the threat that the crisis could continue to impact football for the next 18 months, there are currently no plans to truncate the structure of competitions for 2020/'21.

All parties are maintaining an optimistic outlook and hoping they can go as normal even if next season starts later, but that will again be reassessed every month.