Uefa keen on sporting merit qualification method for European competitions

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April 27, 2020
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    Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin

    Uefa – run by president Aleksander Ceferin – has urged national associations to finish their respective league campaigns

    Uefa has urged clubs to “explore all possible options” to finish domestic seasons and use “a different format” if needed in order for teams to qualify for European competitions.

    European football’s governing body wants clubs to qualify for European competitions through “sporting merit”.

    If league seasons cannot be finished it said national associations would need to select clubs to qualify for Europe.

    Uefa said it could “refuse or evaluate” selected teams if necessary.

    But after a video call meeting of all 55 national associations it is clear Uefa wants on-field performance to determine which clubs make up next season’s Champions League and Europa League competitions despite the current shutdown of major leagues because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Spanish Football Association suggested places being allocated on the basis of club coefficient, which calculates performance in European club competitions over a five year period.

    Had the method been taken up, Atletico Madrid, who are currently outside the top four in La Liga would have qualified for the Champions League at the expense of Real Sociedad, while in the Premier League Manchester United would have done the same at the expense of Leicester City.

    “Uefa urges National Associations and Leagues to explore all possible options to play all top domestic competitions giving access to Uefa club competitions to their natural conclusion,” Uefa said in a statement.

    “The ideal scenario, should the pandemic situation permit it, is to have the currently suspended domestic competitions completed enabling football clubs to qualify for Uefa club competitions on sporting merit in their original format.

    “Should this outcome not be possible, in particular due to calendar issues, it would be preferable that suspended domestic competitions would restart with a different format in a manner which would still facilitate clubs to qualify on sporting merit.”

    Uefa could reject European selections

    Uefa did not make clear what a “different format” would look like but it raises the prospect of mini tournaments or play-off style matches being used to decide European qualification if seasons cannot be finished.

    The Premier League has nine rounds of fixtures remaining but in Spain and Italy there are still 11 and 12 rounds left respectively.

    The Dutch Eredivisie announced it was unlikely to complete the current season because of an extension of government restrictions until 1 September, while Belgium’s top division, the Jupiler League, is also set to be cancelled despite there being just one regular-season game and play-offs to be played.

    Uefa said National Associations can select clubs if their leagues cannot be finished for “legitimate reasons”.

    If a season is not finished for reasons that do not meet Uefa guidelines then the body can reject the teams put forward by a national association.

    It said it could refuse selections if they were not deemed to have been chosen in a way which was “objective, transparent and non-discriminatory” and can also refuse entry to selected teams if “there is a public perception of unfairness in the qualification of the club”.

    Uefa take null-and-void season off the table

    Uefa’s announcement has massive implications for the Premier League because it has effectively taken a null-and-void season off the table in terms of qualification for next season’s European competitions if there is no resumption of the 2019-20 campaign.

    And that means good news for Liverpool. Providing the Premier League uses the same criteria for completing the season as it does for nominating teams, the Reds will be champions for the first time in 30 years – through both present position and points per game, they will be clear of second-placed Manchester City.

    In fact, the top four would stay the same. Chelsea would qualify for the Champions League ahead of Manchester United and join City and Leicester in the elite competition.

    United would be joined in the Europa League group phase by either Sheffield United or Wolverhampton Wanderers. As it stands, the Blades are behind on goal difference but have a match in hand. That means if points-per-game average was used as the determining factor, Chris Wilder’s side would jump up a place, taking them directly into the groups for their first European campaign. If that happened, Wolves would enter at the third qualifying round, as they did this season.

    Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, for the first time in 11 and 25 years respectively, would not qualify for Europe.

    Euro 2020 name will remain

    At Thursday’s meeting, Uefa also confirmed the postponed Euro 2020 tournament will still be known as Uefa Euro 2020 despite being moved to 2021.

    “This decision allows Uefa to keep the original vision of the tournament to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the European Football Championships (1960 – 2020),” Uefa added.

    “It will furthermore serve to remember how the whole football family came together to respond to the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic and the difficult times Europe, and the world, had to go through in 2020.

    “This choice is in line with Uefa’s commitment to make Euro 2020 sustainable and not to generate additional amounts of waste. A lot of branded material had already been produced by the time of the tournament’s postponement. A change to the name of the event would have meant the destruction and reproduction of such items.”

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