UEFA president says leagues ready to play behind closed doors

DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 08: Erik Durm of Borussia Dortmund is tackled by Casemiro of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid at Signal Iduna Park on April 8, 2014 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

PARIS (AFP) – UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said Monday that leagues across Europe were ready to return to action behind closed doors in a bid to limit the damage caused by coronavirus.

Football leagues have been suspended since mid-March due to the pandemic which has claimed more than 100,000 lives throughout the continent.

But the head of European football believes that playing would be an important step towards a return to normal life and avoid heavy financial losses for leagues.

“I believe there are options that can allow us to restart cup championships and to complete them,” Ceferin said in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

“We may have to resume without spectators, but the most important thing, I think, is playing games.

“It is early to say that we cannot complete the season. The impact would be terrible for clubs and leagues. Better to play behind closed doors than not at all.

“In such hard times it would bring happiness to people and a certain sense of normality even if the games can only be seen on TV.

“All activities are being organised to start again, everyone needs to find their lives.

“If safety measures are respected and if the authorities give the green light, the training could resume like the rest.

“Further consent will be needed for matches.”

Ceferin said that if leagues returned “soon enough” then Champions League and Europa League matches could “be played in parallel” with no date limit for the finals.

The Slovenian said he was not in favour of the season going into September and October as it “would have a heavy impact” on the 2020-2021 campaign.

“We can finish, but we must respect the decisions taken by authorities,” he continued.

“The priority is the health of fans, players and coaches.”

As for countries who have decided not to finish the season, Ceferin said that UEFA “will review the cases”.

“Such decisions were not made alone,” he said.

“Football is interconnected, we have seen how important it is for UEFA and leagues to work in good cooperation. The executive committee will review the cases.”

He added: “Leagues are the revenue base for clubs nationwide. If completed, the financial consequences will be limited.

“UEFA, on the other hand, will lose a lot of money for postponing Euro 2020.”