UEFA To Discuss New 10-Game Model For Champions League Group Stage – Report

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

UEFA is to hold talks over proposals that would see the Champions League group stage transformed to guarantee 10 matches for each side in the competition, according to a report on Tuesday.

Champions League reform is expected from 2024 onwards as European football’s governing body aims to ward off the threat of a breakaway super league from the continent’s biggest clubs.

British newspaper The Times reported that a “Swiss system” that would see all sides in the competition compete in one league and play 10 different opponents, selected by a draw, is now UEFA’s favoured model for reform.

The system is designed to have fewer meaningless group matches and more games between the continent’s biggest clubs.

After the 10 games, the top 16 clubs in the standings would progress to the knockout rounds. The team that finished top of the league standings would play the club in 16th, second would play 15th and so on in a system similar to that used by the NBA playoffs.

The teams finishing 17th-24th would drop into the Europa League knockout rounds.

Currently, the 32-team group stage is divided into eight groups of four with the top two in each section progressing to the last 16 and third-place dropping into the Europa League.

Previous proposals for four groups of eight teams to guarantee 14 matches for each club were rejected.

Lars-Christer Olsson, chairman of the European Leagues association which covers 29 nations, said the new proposals had a “more realistic” chance of finding consensus.

“The new proposals are much more realistic than the one in 2019 but what is important is protecting the access list to all the European competitions and ensuring the gap in financial distribution is not widened between the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League,” Olsson told The Times.

However, the addition of four more Champions League matches a season will cause further concerns over player welfare in a congested calendar.

There has been a marked rise in injuries across the major European leagues so far this season as matches are crammed in to make up for lost time last season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

UEFA, Bayern In Super Cup Talks After Budapest Travel Warning

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

UEFA said Thursday they are in talks with Bayern Munich over next week’s Super Cup final in Budapest after the German government declared the Hungarian capital a risk area for the coronavirus.

Despite the travel warning, European football’s governing body say Champions League winners Bayern will face Europa League holders Sevilla as planned at Budapest’s Puskas Arena on September 24 for the UEFA Super Cup.

“UEFA is in contact with Bayern Munich,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

“The impact of the decision of the German authorities on the fans who have purchased tickets is being discussed.

“Further information will be provided in due course.”

The Robert Koch Institute, which advises the German government, has added Budapest to its list of risk areas.

At the start of September, Hungary closed its borders to foreigners in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Bayern fans are due to travel with 4,500 tickets allocated to the German champions as 30 percent of the stadium’s 67,000 capacity will be used for the UEFA Super Cup final.

AFP

UEFA Relaxes Financial Fair Play Rules Amid COVID-19 Crisis

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

UEFA has opted to temporarily soften its financial fair play (FFP) rules to help clubs impacted by the economic fall-out of the coronavirus crisis, European football’s governing body announced on Thursday.

FFP rules mean that, over a three-year period, clubs competing in European competition are not permitted to lose more than 30 million euros ($33.7m).

However, given the damage done to the footballing economy by the interruption to the sport caused by the pandemic, UEFA has agreed to a loosening of the rules which, it says, “aim at addressing the actual problem which is revenue shortfall due to COVID-19 and not financial mismanagement”.

It means that clubs will be given longer than usual to show they have met payments owed on transfers and salaries, while “the assessment of financial year 2020 is postponed for one season, and will be assessed together with the financial year 2021”.

These measures do not impact on decisions already taken before the crisis, so for example French club Marseille are still set to be punished after they were referred in March to the adjudicatory chamber of UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body for not complying with an agreement to balance their books.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: One Positive Case In Latest Round Of Premier League Testing

Manchester City have been banned from Europe for two years and handed a 30 million-euro fine for serious breaches of FFP regulations between 2012 and 2016.

The English club have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, which will announce its judgement on the case in July.

The FFP rules were brought in to combat growing debt in European football.

Assessments began in 2011 when European clubs reported overall losses of 1.7 billion euros. In contrast, according to UEFA’s most recent annual “benchmarking” report, the 700 top-tier clubs across the continent made a combined profit of 140 million euros in 2018.

– ‘Harmonised’ transfer window –

Meanwhile, UEFA has said it wants a harmonised European transfer window this summer closing on October 5, ahead of next season’s Champions League and Europa League group stages.

Following its latest executive committee meeting held via videoconference, UEFA said clubs would have until October 6 to register players for the group stage of next season’s European club competitions.

On Wednesday it was announced that the 2020-21 Champions League would start on October 20, with the Europa League group stage starting two days later.

The summer transfer window in Europe usually closes at the start of September, although individual countries do not all follow the same dates.

Football is still adapting after the current season was interrupted in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

FIFA has already permitted countries to open their transfer windows up to four weeks before the delayed season has been completed, although any new signings would not be eligible until next season.

Several countries are only just resuming competitions, with the seasons in the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga not set to finish until late July. Italy’s Serie A will not now finish until early August.

On Wednesday UEFA announced that this season’s Champions League would be completed with a “final eight” straight knock-out format in Lisbon from August 12 to 23.

Similar formats have been adopted for the latter stages of the Europa League, in Germany, and the women’s Champions League, in Spain.

AFP

UEFA Recommends Completion Of League Seasons

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

UEFA made a “strong recommendation” on Tuesday that domestic European football league seasons, currently on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, be completed.

“There was a strong recommendation given to finish domestic top division and cup competitions,” European football’s governing body said.

It added that “some special cases will be heard once guidelines concerning participation to European competitions — in case of a cancelled league — have been developed.”

UEFA said any further decisions would be announced after its Executive Committee meets on Thursday.

READ ALSO: UK Parliament Resumes Amid Growing COVID-19 Criticism 

League seasons across Europe were halted in March as coronavirus spread across Europe.

The German Bundesliga is set to become the first top-flight league to attempt to restart its season, with clubs expected to agree to a May 9 resumption when they meet on Thursday.

AFP

Euro 2020 Fate To Be Decided As Coronavirus Threat Looms

UEFA-Euro-2020-Logo-London
Photo: UEFA

 

UEFA is expected to postpone Euro 2020 by up to a year on Tuesday, as European football’s governing body considers its response to the fallout of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

All of Europe’s leading domestic leagues ground to a halt last week with football confronting its biggest issue in modern times, and the fate of UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League competitions must also be determined.

UEFA will hold a video conference with representatives from all 55 member associations as well as from clubs and players bodies. It will then hold an executive committee meeting at 1400 (1300 GMT) at its Swiss headquarters.

The future of the European Championship, due to take place for the first time in a dozen different cities spread across the continent from June 12 to July 12, is up in the air.

The “dark scenarios” that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned against envisaging when he spoke at the organisation’s congress in Amsterdam just two weeks ago now have to be considered.

READ ALSO: Champions Cup: Coronavirus Forces Postponement Of Last Eight Matches

Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy and Spain on lockdown, France rapidly following suit, and other countries closing borders to halt the spread of the outbreak.

More than 2,100 people have died in Italy, which is supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome.

– Postponed for a year? –

The head of the Italian football federation, Gabriele Gravina, has already proposed that the Euros be postponed, with Italy coach Roberto Mancini calling for it to pushed back 12 months.

“We would have won the European Championship this summer, we can also win it in 2021,” Mancini told television station Rai Sport.

It is a position that many across the continent are coming round to amid much uncertainty as to when club football can resume.

“UEFA has no choice. They have to postpone the Euros and the Champions League,” one senior figure in the world game told AFP, although finding agreement across the board may not be easy.

German league chief Christian Seifert believes postponing the European Championship is inevitable.

“I firmly count on the fact the tournament will be postponed,” Seifert said. “The probability that we have a perfect Euros this summer is measured by a number close to zero.”

German broadcaster ZDF reported that two possible options are on the table.

One is to push it back to 2021, although that is not as simple as it might appear, as it would need FIFA president Gianni Infantino to agree to halting the inaugural edition of his highly lucrative Club World Cup, due to take place in June and July next year in China with some of Europe’s top club sides involved.

FIFA offered “no comment” on Monday on the matter.

There is also the issue of the women’s European Championship, scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley. The London venue is also supposed to hold the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020. UEFA have also planned to stage an Under-21 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia in June next year.

The alternative option for UEFA, according to ZDF, is to maintain a Euro 2020 by playing it later in the year.

– Financial stakes ‘enormous’ –

That supposes that the crisis will have calmed down by then, and there is also the issue of all the other football that has been suspended.

UEFA may come to a decision to try to complete the Champions League and Europa League by curtailing the competitions, meaning ties up to the semi-finals could be decided in one-off matches.

Financially, UEFA would undoubtedly prefer postponing their flagship tournaments to cancelling them altogether, or playing matches behind closed doors.

“The financial stakes are enormous,” according to one senior figure in the international game. “We know that FIFA has significant reserves but we don’t know about UEFA or the different leagues.”

AFP

Amid Coronavirus Lockdown, England’s National League Plays On

UK To Boost African Partnership With £30m

 

With the rest of European football locked down in response to the coronavirus, England’s fifth-tier National League provided a controversial respite for fans looking to satisfy their craving for sport on Saturday.

The growing threat of the deadly pandemic forced the Premier League, the Championship, League One and League Two to suspend play on Friday until at least April 3.

But, unlike elsewhere across the world, large gatherings in public are yet to be officially banned by the British government.

So, in the grassroots of the English game, there were still matches being played as the fifth division decided their fixtures would go ahead, for this weekend at least.

Although National League games at Barrow, Boreham Wood, Bromley, Woking and Yeovil were eventually postponed due to COVID-19 fears, nearly 5,000 fans watched Notts County beat Eastleigh 4-0 on Saturday.

However, the decision to keep playing has been divisive, with Eastleigh manager Ben Strevens accusing the National League of greed.

“The reason National League games went ahead and the EFL games didn’t go ahead and the Premier League games didn’t go ahead is because whoever sits on the board of the National League cared about money. Simple as that,” he said.

“I looked around today and there’s stewards that are older. They’re the ones that are most at risk from this virus.

“There’s no way whatsoever these games should have been played.”

National League chief executive Michael Tattersall refused to be drawn into a war of words, saying: “It’s not really a time for having an argument, it’s a time for reflecting on what’s happening in our society.

“We’re going to put out our own statement thanking everybody for their efforts and sending everybody who is suffering from the virus or self-isolating all our best wishes.”

The mood was calmer at Halifax as 2,154 fans saw the promotion-chasing Yorkshire club beaten 1-0 by Ebbsfleet.

Halifax fan Gary Pell, 56, spoke to AFP from the Three Pigeons pub, where supporters gathered before the match.

“It’s a bit surreal,” he said. “We were looking at the fixture list and every country in Europe has its fixtures as postponed or cancelled.

“It’s really strange seeing the National League games and a couple of other leagues still on.”

In a bid to capitalise on the lack of games elsewhere, Halifax let fans of Premier League and Football League clubs into The Shay for just £10 if they could prove they were season-ticket holders.

Two Manchester City fans, who would have been watching their team play Burnley but for the postponements, told AFP they wanted to take in a match to get their football fix.

One Ebbsfleet fan posed in a face mask and rubber gloves in the pub, but more in jest than for safety.

No other supporters were seen in protective masks, while a sign in one stand reminded fans to wash their hands.

Pell said his fellow supporters were doing their best to keep calm about the global health crisis.

“I think there is a bit of pragmatism. We’re taking note of the advice but there’s also a sense of ‘keep calm and carry on,” he said.

“If it carries on they will be under pressure to ramp up precautions. I think the next few weeks are going to be key.”

The possibility of cancelling the season has been raised in some quarters.

That prospect could be financially disastrous for clubs lower down the pyramid.

Fifth tier Dagenham’s managing director Steve Thompson, whose team’s trip to Woking was cancelled, agrees with the concern: “Yes, depending on how long it went on. Potentially, some clubs are not going to survive this.

“We’re talking £10 million to £20 million just to support the National League clubs over three or four months.”

AC Milan Accept Ban From European Football

A file photo taken on September 10, 2006 shows the AC Milan’ logo before their Serie A football match AC Milan vs Lazio, in Milan. AC Milan,/AFP

 

AC Milan confirmed on Friday that they have accepted a voluntary ban from European football for next season over breaches of financial fair play rules.

European football’s governing body UEFA had accused the club of violating financial fair play (FFP) regulations over the past three seasons and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Friday ruled in their favour.

“AC Milan is excluded from participating in UEFA club competitions of the sporting season 2019/2020 as a consequence of the breach of its FFP break-even obligations” for the past three seasons, the court ruled.

UEFA initially found the Italian giants, who had qualified for the Europa League next season, guilty in June last year of violating financial rules which broadly limit club expenditure to club income in any given year.

However, CAS referred the matter back to UEFA judging that an European ban was disproportionate.

Ultimately UEFA action against the club was suspended pending the outcome of arbitration, resulting in Friday’s decision following agreement between UEFA, the club and CAS.

READ ALSO: UEFA Ban AC Milan From European Football

The announcement follows the club’s adoption of spending curbs in recent months designed to return its finances to a better state and which saw the departure of coach Gennaro Gattuso.

The Serie A giants, who missed out on a Champions League spot by one point to city rivals Inter, are one of several clubs, including Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, to have been investigated for breaching UEFA’s rules, whereby clubs cannot spend more than they generate by their own means.

AC Milan have fallen foul of UEFA’s financial rules since they spent 200 million euros ($225 million) on transfers in the summer of 2017.

The club insist however that their finances should improve under American hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation, who took control last summer when former Chinese owner Li Yonghong defaulted on the loan he had taken to buy the club in 2017 from former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

– Act as a stimulus –
AC Milan confirmed their “voluntary acceptance” of the ban for breaches in the three-year periods 2014-2017 and 2015-2018 and said they hoped it would “act as a stimulus” to bring them back to the top.

“The current shareholder took ownership of the club in July 2018, inheriting substantial accumulated losses after the previous owner of AC Milan defaulted on debt obligations,” the club said in a statement on Friday.

“These losses and the associated violation of FFP rules, as a consequence of actions taken under previous ownership, led to sanctions by UEFA.

“Whilst saddened by the fact that our fans will not be able to see their team compete in European competition next season, the club recognises and respects FFP.

“The club acknowledges it has no other choice but to accept the sanctions, as it seeks to forge a pathway back to full compliance.

“AC Milan remains committed to restoring the club to its rightful place at the top of European football.

“Today’s ruling will act as a stimulus to maximise the efforts to become fully compliant with FFP, while at the same time consolidating the competitiveness of the club, and returning AC Milan to sustainability and a more positive future.”

The club, which will be coached next season by former Sampdoria boss Marco Giampaolo, won their seventh Champions League title in 2007 and their 18th Serie A crown in 2011.

Cristiano Ronaldo Is UEFA Best Player In Europe

Cristiano-Ronaldo-Best-Player-in-Europe-2015-2016Portugal’s forward, Cristiano Ronaldo, has been named the UEFA Best Player in Europe for 2015/2016.

Ronaldo was named on Thursday at a ceremony that also produced the draw for the group stage of the Champions League.

After he was named winner, Ronaldo said: “My team-mates are the key. They are the key every year.

“I work hard myself but without the help of my team-mates this would not be possible.

“Thanks to my team-mates from Real Madrid and Portugal”.

The Real Madrid striker also said that it was a great honour to have been voted.

“It’s a great honour and thanks to the journalists for voting for me!

“I have to mention Portugal because it was the first in their history.

“It was different because I’ve won the Champions League three times. To win something with Portugal was the highlight of my career,” he said.

He had last month led his team to win the European Nations Cup, in a final that he was pulled out due to an injury.

Sweden Includes Ibrahimovic In Olympics Squad

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden, OlympicsZlatan Ibrahimovic has been listed in Sweden’s provisional 35-man squad for the Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

But the 34-year-old has refused to disclose his intention whether or not to participate in the Olympics, until the Euro 2016 was over.

He is the captain of the Swedish national team at the ongoing European football competition.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s coach at the Olympics, Hakan Ericson, said he would keep Ibrahimovic’s chance of participating open, but acknowledged the probabilities were slim.

This comes after the Paris Saint-Germain forward agreed to conditional terms with Manchester United and to join the club after Euro 2016.

The Red Devils manager, Jose Mourinho, gave his approval to Ibrahimovic’s signing, as the duo were motivated to work together again after winning the Italian league title with Inter Milan in 2009.

Netherlands Football Legend, Johan Cruyff Dies At 68

johan_cruyffNetherlands football legend, Hendrik Johannes Cruyff, simply known as Johan Cruyff has passed on.

The Dutchman, who died of cancer at the age of 68, was earlier diagnosed of cancer in October 2015.

The professional football player and coach became popular while playing as a striker with Ajax and Barcelona.

He also won the prestigious European football award, Ballon d’Or three times in 1971, 1973 and 1974.

Johan Cruyff won three successive European Cups with Ajax and also led Spanish giants, Barcelona as coach to their first European Cup victory in 1992.

FIFA Announce December 18 As Final Of Qatar 2022

fifaFIFA has confirmed that the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar will take place on 18 December. A FIFA task force last month recommended that the tournament should be switched from summer to winter.

The decision to hold the final on 18 December means Britain’s traditional Boxing Day club matches on 26 December can still take place.

In another key decision, FIFA has chosen France to host the 2019 women’s World Cup, ahead of South Korea. France will also stage the Under-20 women’s tournament in 2018.

Walter De Gregorio, FIFA’s director of communications, confirmed that the 2022 World Cup would begin in November and finish on 18 December.

“Yes, we are going to play in November and December, he said, the final is going to be played on 18 December. It’s a Sunday and it’s also the national day of Qatar.”

The decision to move the 2022 World Cup from its traditional June and July slot was taken because of health concerns for players.

FIFA also indicated that the 2022 World Cup could be shortened to 28 days, rather than 31 or 32 days.

UEFA, the body that governs European football, had pushed for the final to be as late as 23 December.

However, the option attracted opposition from FIFA members who feared it would cause problems for fans and players getting home in time for Christmas, as well as affecting club football’s festive programme.

Ashley Cole Will Get New Chelsea Contract – Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has declared that defender, Ashley Cole, will be offered a new Chelsea contract despite the England international having been out of the first team for over a month.

There has been speculation that the 33-year-old will leave the club in the summer owing to the status of his current deal which expires at the end of the season and, the preference for right-sided Cesar Azpilicueta at Cole’s left back position.

However, Mourinho sees things differently, as he confirmed that Cole would return to the Blues starting 11 for Wednesday night’s UEFA Champions’ League Group E clash with Romanian club, Steaua Bucharest.

“Naturally he will get his contract because he’s a valuable player for us,’ the Chelsea boss said.

“Even if you are not playing every game and you are not a first-choice player, like he was always, I don’t think sometimes it means that you are not well, you are not in well conditions, you are not deserving a new contract.

“I feel he’s fine. And I think tomorrow he’s going to show that he’s fine. He starts tomorrow.

“It’s easy to feel that he’s not happy, that he’s not comfortable with a situation, but the way he behaves, the way he trains (is) super professional, as always.

“As always, he’s a fantastic trainer, fantastic professional. When he’s on the bench behind me, I can feel that he’s there to win, even if he’s not on the pitch.”

Also expected back in the first team for the UCL final group game is central defender, David Luiz, who like Cole, has not featured for Chelsea since their Premier League defeat at Newcastle United on November 2.

The Brazilian has been side-lined since suffering a bruised patella during the international break while away with his national team in November.

Although, Chelsea have qualified for the knockout phase despite losing to Basel last month, they need a point against Steaua to finish top of the group, a position many teams would fancy in order to avoid playing a tough team in the Round of 16.