Fifa working group to address coronavirus issues as leagues consider next steps
Fifa is creating a working group together with the soccer confederations to address the issues brought about by the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the sport to a halt around the world.
The group will consider matters such as the international calendar, the transfer of players and whether a financial support fund is required to mitigate the economic impact of the stoppage on stakeholders across the world.
It was decided this week that the 2020 Uefa European Championships, to be held across the continent, and South America’s 2020 Copa America in Argentina and Colombia will be postponed until next year, and the European club season extended to the end of June as a result of the virus outbreak.
However, there will be complications if there are further delays given that standard player contracts run to 30 June.
The latest measure was approved at a conference call of the bureau of the Fifa council on Wednesday chaired by Fifa president Gianni Infantino (pictured).
As expected, the new dates for Euro 2020 and the Copa America were approved, and a decision on when to schedule the expanded and revamped Club World Cup, which was due to take place in June and July, 2021, will be made at a later date.
Earlier this week, Infantino suggested that the inaugural 24-team tournament could be held later in 2021 or in 2022 or 2023.
The bureau also confirmed the donation of $10 million to the World Health Organisation COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
In a statement, Infantino said: “This exceptional situation requires exceptional measures and decisions. This crisis impacts the entire world and that is why solutions need to take into account the interests of all stakeholders around the world.
“We have shown again today a spirit of cooperation, solidarity and unity. These must be our key drivers moving forward and I would like to thank all the Confederations Presidents for their positive contributions and efforts. Fifa will keep in close contact with all stakeholders to assess and take the necessary steps to deal with the variety of issues we are facing. I count on the support of the whole football community moving forward.”
While most soccer is suspended, confederations, national federations and leagues have all been considering the best approach to completing 2019-20 seasons, and the board of England’s Premier League is holding an emergency board meeting via conference call today to decide on the best way forward for now.
The league has already postponed matches until at least 4 April, and, with mass gatherings having been banned by the UK government, and preventative measures being stepped up across the country, that date is likely to be extended.
However, the league is understood to committed to finishing the season before starting the 2020-21 campaign and may consider staging games behind closed doors in the coming months if and when it is safe to do so.
If the season is simply voided then there is the prospect of legal action from clubs deprived of promotion, while broadcasters and sponsors would likely seek compensation for matches not played.
With uncertainty over the length and impact of the pandemic, no definitive decisions are expected today, but Premier League club representatives were set to be presented with potential end-of-season scenarios, and the possible financial and legal implications of these.
The Premier League has been in talks with England’s Football Association and the lower-tier English Football League over the situation, and the latter yesterday released a £50-million ($58-million) short-term relief fund to help clubs with cashflow problems as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Elsewhere, the LFP, the French professional league, has suggested that matches could resume in mid-April.
Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 have been suspended indefinitely because of the virus outbreak, and LFP president Nathalie Boy de la Tour said yesterday there would be no games until at least 15 April.
However, she sees opportunities beyond that, saying: “If the [French government’s] containment period lasts 15 days, and we add two weeks of training before that, we could resume around 15 April. We can anticipate everything, but above all we have to adapt and remain pragmatic.”
She added: “The administrative council meeting on Tuesday said the top priority was to complete the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 campaigns, in view of the sporting and economic stakes involved. This is vital for the future of the clubs and French football.
“We will be able to move away from the framework that says the leagues play at the weekend and Uefa plays during the week. It was agreed this morning that everyone could play whenever they wanted to finish their competitions.”
Following the postponement of Euro 2020, Uefa is hopeful that the Champions League and Europa League finals can be held in the final week of June.
South America has been less affected by the coronavirus than Europe, but Conmebol has agreed to postpone the Copa America by a year, in part to correspond with the European Championships, and to simplify player release.
In addition, it was announced yesterday the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana club competitions will be suspended until at least 5 May.