Thursday’s soccer news starts with more on the economics of suspended seasons. European soccer is in a situation where there may or may not be a hard June 30 deadline to complete the current seasons, with leagues and governing bodies reportedly considering options past that point. Finishing the 2019-20 season appears to be a priority across European soccer, pushing against the scenarios that have European soccer moving on to next season.
Reuters’ Simon Evans reports on a FIFA document considering extending player contracts to account for the suspended seasons. That’s an obvious and necessary step to take if the intention is to set aside the hard endpoint of June 30. How much support that might get across Europe is another issue. The stakeholders in the game may prefer a hard deadline and to move on if that’s a viable option. TV contracts as well as player and coaching contracts are certainly part of that discussion. So is the ability for FIFA to unilaterally impose a schedule for European club soccer.
For all the credit FIFA and UEFA have gotten for working together in a common best interest, that interest could easily and quickly divide. FIFA still needed to address the broader scheduling issues, in large part a result of their own choices. FIFA has already postponed the 2021 Club World Cup, a tournament that’s a priority for them but of questionable value to the confederations. Setting the 2022 World Cup for November and December further complicates the domestic seasons in Europe and elsewhere. The expanded World Cup for 2026 also adds pressure to the schedule with World Cup qualifying requiring a revamp in advance of that tournament.
How much the Confederations will allow FIFA to lead here could quickly become the question. There’s a point where FIFA leadership will push too much against the ambitions of the Confederations and their constituencies. That’s not just the leagues and clubs at the top of the European game. It’s the rest of world soccer as well.
UEFA has the second most valuable tournament in the game needing a conclusion. What happens with the Champions League should rightly be their priority, with this summer’s EURO 2020 already pushed to 2021. UEFA made a bigger sacrifice with that than FIFA moving the unproven Club World Cup out of the way. There’s nothing stopping FIFA from scheduling another December Club World Cup. UEFA lacks that same space on the calendar.
What UEFA and the European leagues face now is the growing issue of competitive fairness. The Champions League suspended halfway through a bizarre round of 16 with some games played behind closed doors. Due to UEFA’s choice to stretch out the knockout rounds, four of the eight round of 16 series need to play a second-leg after a lengthy delay. Once soccer restarts, how fair is it to push teams back into a series where the first legs happened in February?
However UEFA chooses to conclude this season’s Champions League, that’s the broader message for FIFA. If UEFA has no choice but to move on with next season’s Champions League, there’s no downplaying the loss for European soccer from a competitive and economic standpoint. It’s also a demonstration that Europe will sacrifice for the good of the game.
AP has Australia calling on FIFA to make the rescheduled Olympic men’s soccer tournament a U-24 event. DW on the Bundesliga Champions League teams pooling 20m euros to aid struggling German clubs. BBC Sport with England’s Professional Footballers Association asking for a meeting with the leagues over clubs curtailing player salaries. The Guardian’s Sid Lowe and Ben Fisher look at reports that Barcelona wants a reduction in player pay.
SI.com’s Brian Straus’s take on the new president and CEO at the US Soccer Federation. The Athletic’s Paul Tenorio interviews former USMNT player Eddie Johnson. ESPN’s Tom Marshall updates the situation with proposed changes to promotion and relegation in Liga MX.
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