Several options on the table for Europe's stricken leagues

By Mark Gleeson
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Several options on the table for Europe's stricken leagues

FILE PHOTO: Bundesliga - Borussia Moenchengladbach v FC Cologne

By Mark Gleeson

(Reuters) - Some clarity on how soccer leagues in Europe plan to complete seasons that have been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic is expected this week but there is likely to be a mixed bag of solutions with countries tugging in different directions.

Meetings set for the next few days will study how to resume the suspended campaigns, even though it will be difficult to come up with a definitive roadmap while the continent remains in the grip of the fast-spreading virus.

UEFA will discuss this season's Champions League on Wednesday while the Premier League will hold a conference call on Friday with suggestions they are considering re-starting the season in early May to avoid losing broadcast revenue.

One option on the table is resuming the season behind close doors in order to finish by July 12, thereby avoiding millions of pounds of penalties in their television contracts.

They will also want to settle promotion and relegation issues to avoid potential legal battles, like the one threatened by non-league clubs whose season has already been curtailed.

In Italy, which has been in lockdown for over three weeks and has a COVID-19 death toll approaching 12,000, there is growing sentiment that the season should be abandoned.

"Let's think about health now, we'll talk about football later," Fiorentina owner Rocco Commisso said.

German clubs were meeting in Frankfurt on Tuesday with several stark options on the table.

The German football league (DFL) will hear proposals to resume the Bundesliga in either mid-may or mid-June and finish the season in late July.

It has also been suggested by some clubs that a 16-day tournament be organised, with several matches each day and clubs playing every two days in order to complete the 82 remaining matches by June 30, including the German Cup semi-finals and final.

"We should definitely end this season. For reasons of fairness but also to limit the economic damage," said Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.


UNDER PRESSURE

But the prospect of La Liga clubs in Spain playing every second day was a non-starter for Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

“The scenario we are looking at now is to play a game or two before June 30 so we can end the season in July or August. We have no problems in doing that," he said on Tuesday.

"What we don't want is to play games behind closed doors or every 48 hours."

Ligue 1 in France is also under pressure to return after broadcaster Canal Plus said it would not pay the next installment of their contract after the suspension of matches.

Dutch clubs are awaiting an announcement on Tuesday of a possible extension of the ban on gatherings past June 1.

In Belgium, the league’s leadership will meet on Thursday after a call from the majority of first and second division clubs to call off the rest of the 2019-20 campaign.

FIFA plans to allow player contracts that end on June 30 to be extended until the season is completed.

Wednesday’s UEFA video conference will involve the general secretaries of its 55 member associations but is unlikely to make any firm decisions, insiders said.

Instead it will offer various scenarios, including the possibility of completing the Champions League in July and August.

No matter what is discussed or agreed this week, the only thing that remains clear is that the situation will remain fluid for the foreseeable weeks ahead.


(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)