The Premier League faces the prospect of deciding Champions League positions and relegation spots in one-off ties – if the season is not able successfully to reach a conclusion this summer.
UEFA, following a meeting yesterday, developed guidelines for clubs across the continent as the governing body look to formulate a plan to get the 2019-20 seasons finished.
All of Europe’s top five leagues are currently suspended due to the global coronavirus pandemic and each of them remains incomplete, with league titles, Champions League spots and relegation positions all still to be decided.
UEFA announced that it is ‘preferable that suspended domestic competitions would restart with a different format in a manner which would still facilitate clubs to qualify on sporting merit’.
Liverpool found themselves 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League at the time of the suspension.
Chelsea are sat in fourth, in the final Champions League position, three points clear of Manchester United in fifth, with both teams still with nine games left to play.
Norwich is bottom of the table, six points off safety, while Aston Villa are two points adrift and Bournemouth are in the relegation zone on goal difference.
With UK government lockdown measures recently extended by a further three weeks, it is believed that June 8 is the earliest possible restart date for the Premier League – but that remains a flexible date as football reacts to the state of the virus.
UEFA are keen to see domestic leagues concluded by the start of August at the latest, with that month slated to feature the conclusion of the Champions League.
Leagues that are unable to bring about a return to action will be advised to stage one-off play-off games to determine key positions in the table, which would directly affect sides like Chelsea, Manchester United and Sheffield United in the Champions League race.
As part of UEFA’s determination from yesterday’s meeting, they acknowledged that leagues could be prematurely cancelled if ‘there is an existence of an official order prohibiting sports events’ by the national government.
It was also determined that ‘insurmountable economic problems which make finishing the season impossible because it would put at risk the long-term financial stability of the domestic competition and/or clubs’ was another viable reason to terminate the season immediately, as has happened in countries such as Belgium.
Another proposal that has been offered up is for leagues to make a decision made on points-per-game ratio, according to The Times.
That decision which would secure a Champions League spot next season for the Premier League’s current top four of Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester and Chelsea.