Friday's soccer news starts with UEFA not at all happy that Belgium went ahead and canceled the rest of their season. The Pro League still has time to reconsider their decision to keep the table as it is, sacrificing the final game of the regular season and giving up on their convoluted playoffs. The Netherlands is also considering calling time on the Eredivisie, a league with two teams tied at the top of the table. The NY Times' Tariq Panja relays UEFA president Aleksandar Ceferin's comments that canceled seasons may keep countries out of the Champions League and Europea League in 2020-21.
It's an interesting, if not exactly surprising, stance from UEFA with European soccer still working out if finishing this season is possible, much less probable. With Serie A the first league to suspend its schedule and one of the hardest hit with the outbreak, they seemed the likeliest to go ahead and call 2019-20 done. Instead, it was Belgium's Pro League with their northern neighbors considering following their lead.
Club Brugge may not be scheduling a championship celebration just yet, but they're 15 points clear at the top of the table. Depending on the outcomes of the final regular season game, that could have them starting the playoffs with an 8-point advantage. It's the rest of the top six that's the issue. Two points separate 2nd through 4th-place, with those points cut in half to start the 10-game playoff schedule. The Pro League has two Champions League places and three in the Europa League.
The Eredivisie is simpler but with a bigger issue from a competitive standpoint. It's a traditional league with two teams tied on points at the top of the table. Ajax has already said it believes the rest of the season shouldn't happen. They would take the title on goal difference over AZ in that scenario. What's interesting is AZ agrees with them. That club released a statement on Thursday.
"Matches are of minor importance," the club's GM Robert Eenhoorn said. "We understand better than anyone that this will be a very difficult decision, but we find the current corona situation so worrying that playing the remainder of the matches without an audience is of secondary importance to us. In addition, there is still too much uncertainty about how the coronavirus will develop."
It's that last part that UEFA is now reportedly stressing, that in early April it's too soon to know and too quick to decide to cancel. UEFA seems to believe that there's still time to salvage the whole of the 2019-20 European season, including the Champions League and Europa League. They could very well be correct in that thinking, only underlining the current uncertainty. However, as Belgium and other leagues may show, European soccer's governing body is not the sole authority for what happens with this season.
AP's Rob Harris reports on UEFA's plan to restart suspended seasons in July. The Guardian's David Conn looks at UEFA's attempt to keep Europe's leagues suspended in case there's time to complete the schedule.
Also in the soccer news, the Premier League is advancing £125m to England's lower divisions, £20m to the National Health Service, and continuing the discussion over reducing player pay. "In the face of substantial and continuing losses for the 2019/20 season since the suspension of matches began, and to protect employment throughout the professional game, Premier League clubs unanimously agreed to consult their players regarding a combination of conditional reductions and deferrals amounting to 30 per cent of total annual remuneration," the Premier League statement read. "This guidance will be kept under constant review as circumstances change.The league will be in regular contact with the PFA, and the union will join a meeting which will be held tomorrow between the League, players and club representatives."
The Telegraph's Sam Wallace and Mike McGrath use Hull City as the example for how clubs are asking players to reduce their pay without informing them fully about the economic situation for the business. MLSsoccer's Nick Firchau tells the story of MLS Porject-40, the developmental team the league fielded in the old A-League.
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