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Why Uefa meeting is key to future of our game


Lots to consider: Uefa will discuss today what to do with Champions League ties such as Manchester City against Real Madrid. Photo: Getty Images

Lots to consider: Uefa will discuss today what to do with Champions League ties such as Manchester City against Real Madrid. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Lots to consider: Uefa will discuss today what to do with Champions League ties such as Manchester City against Real Madrid. Photo: Getty Images

These are abnormal times, as at least some way re-emphasised by the fact the most momentous event in the football calendar this week is not a Uefa fixture, but a Uefa meeting.

It won't just decide one result, but many results, and potentially the game itself.

Anyone still invested in the fate of their club's season should be attuned to this, even as it goes without saying that it pales next to the real-world consequences of Covid-19.

That's what today's meeting in Nyon - between all 55 national member associations, the boards of the European Club Association, European Leagues and a representative of FIFPro, the players' union - will hope to help resolve.

Uefa may well have to cancel the season, but part of the challenge is to save the game - or at least prevent it from fracturing. That is what rumbles under much of this, too, as many clubs face genuine threats to their existence and other interests look to use the situation to secure their own ends.

One other outcome of this crisis has been that it has exposed how stretched the football calendar already was.

There had been a growing feeling that some kind of "reckoning" was coming, especially as Fifa looked to crowbar in a highly controversial new Club World Cup, but coronavirus has made all that even starker.

It is already set to cause the postponement of Euro 2020, the first necessary step. That only buys time for this problem, however. It doesn't offer solutions to it.

This is what this meeting will attempt, although sources maintain Uefa are "reeling" and have no real plans.

The priority has been to finish the season, but others inside and outside football maintain that is close to preposterous.

It is this which offers the biggest headaches, as it potentially means campaigns have to be settled off the pitch.

It is also why the key is what happens to the 2019-20 Champions League, and pretty much what everyone is waiting on.

If Uefa decide to just postpone the season - and effectively cut into 2020-21 or maybe erode it altogether - it will give all domestic competitions the space to wait, and look to come back to their own current competitions when they can. It will mean there is much less pressure, say, on settling issues like Liverpool's Premier League title and who gets relegated.

This is because everything in European football - and especially those top qualifying positions - must be anchored to the next Champions League season, and why it may pose a problem if Uefa decide they are going to end 2019-20 on a specific date, to start 2020-21.

That is what will create pressure. That is what could make Thursday's subsequent Premier League meeting all the more pressurised and stressful.

On the other side, however, there are all manner of pressures - from contracts to clubs needing to budget - that mean setting a date for a new 2020-21 season is almost essential.

Uefa are mindful of issues like this, too, and the danger of domestic competitions effectively going their own way. The Premier League has already mooted an alternative of its own, by discussing finishing the season between July and September.

This would create even more complications if Uefa had decided their season ends in July. And this problem is all the more pronounced, in real terms, because the virus is at different stages in different countries.

Uefa need everyone in step, not least to preserve the very structure of the game.

To do that, though, they need to show decisive leadership.

The importance of that is all the greater given the potential for splits that go much further back than Covid-19.

This is where bigger problems for the game could arise.

Football again may be insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but it can quickly serve to make people realise the severity of the issue.

Consider this part. For the past few years, the game has been engaged in an escalating debate about how there is too much football. Now it's been brought to a halt, with no indication of when it can continue.

There could well end up the simplest but starkest of historical markers of this, and how relatively smooth modern life and sport has been.

In the entire 65-year history of the European Cup and Champions League, there has always been a champion. It is now possible that 2020 goes blank. A great line broken.

Uefa's preference is still to prevent this. There are pie-in-the-sky ideas like the remaining teams playing one-leg knockouts in one country, like Turkey, where the final is supposed to take place. It would be a TV spectacular.

And yet if that happens, is it just potential leverage for a future super league?

These are all long-term concerns for the moment that feel largely irrelevant but this is also what Uefa are mindful of.

It is just one other reason why so much rests on today's meeting.

It is the biggest and most meaningful fixture for some time.

Belfast Telegraph