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The coronavirus pandemic has brought regular life to a halt as countries fight to contain the spread. Professional sports were naturally hit hard, but as new cases slow down across Europe, all of the top soccer leagues are beginning to firm up plans as best as possible for the resumption of play.

With virtually every league title, European qualification for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, and relegation/promotion battles yet to be decided, all top leagues are committed to resolving the 2019-20 seasons before moving on.

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Here is the state of play across Europe’s top five domestic leagues as well as European football’s ruling body, UEFA, which oversees club competitions as well as the European Championships.

Editor’s Note: This file will be updated as leagues make revisions to their existing plans or introduce new ones following consultation with government officials and health officials in their respective countries.

Jump to: England | Spain | Germany | Italy | France | UEFA


Major leagues impacted: Premier League, English Championship, League One, League Two

Last game played: March 9
Current target date to resume: June 6
Will season be voided? Leagues are committed to finishing
Financial cost to league: $1.25 billion (£1bn) if canceled

The Premier League has been suspended since March 13 and is currently shut down until April 30, but that provisional return date will be pushed back again when the clubs meet via video conference on Friday.

There is a broad agreement within the Premier League that the 2019-20 season will be played to a conclusion, and the English FA has agreed to an indefinite extension to enable this to happen. The Premier League is expected to follow the lead set by the English Football League (EFL), which controls the Championship, League One and League Two, by setting June 6 as a date for a return to action behind closed doors.

In the EFL, clubs have been told to return to training on May 16, ahead of a June 6 resumption.

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What training plans have been set by leagues or teams?

In the immediate aftermath of the shutdown on March 13, players were given individual fitness programs by clubs. However, players are now being advised to use the time from mid-April to mid-May as a rest period — footballers are contractually obliged to be given a three-week break a year — before aiming to start a mini- preseason on May 16.

What’s been discussed about how to return to action?

All options, with the exception of the season being declared null and void, are on the table. They range from the most likely scenario, of fixtures being played behind closed doors during June and July, to games being played over weekends at Wembley or even St George’s Park, the National Football Centre in Burton.

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If it proves impossible to resume football during the summer, one option, regarded as a last resort, is for the two outstanding fixtures of the last round of matches — Man City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United — to be played and the season then ended with all teams having played 29 games.

“We have to make plans and draw up scenarios, but we are in the hands of the government,” one senior club executive told ESPN. “If the public lockdown is eased in May, then there is some hope that we can start playing again in June. But it will all be behind closed doors. Nobody is realistically expecting football in front of crowds for a long while yet.”

How bad is the financial fallout?

Burnley chairman Mike Garlick admitted earlier this month that his club stood to lose approximately $62.5 million (£50m) if the season was to be cancelled, with $6.25m (£5m) in lost crowd revenue and $56m (£45m) from the loss of broadcasting payments. The worst-case scenario would see Manchester United miss out on approximately $132.5m (£106m) from a combination of lost gate receipts and lost broadcasting revenue.

If the season is played to a conclusion, as planned, the losses will be much smaller due to TV money being paid for games being broadcast. Instead, losses will be tied to the absence of gate receipts. The Premier League has sanctioned a $156m (£125m) grant to help the EFL clubs through the shutdown, but the true extent of the financial meltdown will become clear only once the season is completed or cancelled.

If it is declared null and void, the total cost to Premier League clubs will approach $1.25 billion (£1bn). — Mark Ogden

Major leagues impacted: Primera Division, Segunda Division

Last game played: March 10
Current target date to resume: Three scenarios proposed
Will season be voided? Leagues are committed to finishing
Financial cost to league: $1.808bn (£870m) if the season isn’t completed, $381m (£305m) if it’s completed behind closed doors, $163m (£130m) if it’s completed with fans in attendance

The last game played in Spain was Eibar vs. Real Sociedad behind closed doors on March 10. At first, the league was stopped for two rounds of games but that weekend, March 14, a state of alarm was announced and lockdown began. It’s still going — until April 26 at least.

At the moment, the leagues are working on three scenarios that they know will depend on what happens over the next few weeks and what the national health authorities allow. They also hope to be able to coordinate the return of league play with UEFA competitions, and conversations with the ECA and UEFA are ongoing.

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There are 11 matchdays left in the first division. On Tuesday, the federation said it would be beginning talks to build an accelerated fixture list to try to get it finished.

The three dates the leagues have penciled in are:
– May 28: games played in June, every 72 hours behind closed doors, and UEFA competition played in July once it is completed
– June 6: leagues start with domestic and European competition played together in one block and the season finishing at the end of July (also behind closed doors)
– June 28: leagues start with La Liga taking up the whole month of July and European competition in August. (Again, the expectation is that this happens behind closed doors.)

What training plans have been set by leagues or teams?

Real Sociedad had been due to return to work on Tuesday — the first Spanish club to do so — after the relaxation of the lockdown rules from the government. But the country’s Consejo Superior de Deportes (effectively the sports ministry) intervened to prevent it, saying the terms of the state of alarm still prevented them from doing so.

The league would like to send all the teams back together under a joint protocol that includes social distancing rules, but all teams remain in a holding pattern. Discussions continue on how long teams will need before they’re ready for competition.

“A protocol is being drafted by three medical teams over the last two weeks for a return to training, which involves the possibility of doing coronavirus tests and isolation in dressing rooms,” said Javier Tebas, the president of the league, even before Real Sociedad’s failed attempt to go back sooner. “When? We can’t say at the moment. The Spanish medical authorities will tell us.”

What’s been discussed about how to return to action?

The league and the federation issued a joint statement saying that whatever happens will depend on the health authorities, but that’s just about the only thing they’re doing together and that feels like a long time ago now. Every day seems to bring another confrontation in an ongoing war that is, frankly, an embarrassing clash of egos and jurisdiction. The players’ union, the AFE, isn’t helping much. Discussions with the league about an across-the-board pay cut broke down, with the league complaining that the players didn’t appreciate how serious this was.

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This week, both sides said they will take guidance from health authorities. At some point, they will have to work together, or at least tolerate each other. La Liga say they are not even contemplating the season being annulled, though they’ve recognized that it’s a discussion for a future date if the situation doesn’t evolve favorably over April. The curve is turning downward in Spain.

How bad is the financial fallout?

Football accounts for 1.37% of Spain’s GDP, or so the league claims. The league calculates three levels of economic loss across the budgets of the first-division clubs, including money lost in Europe: over $1bn (£870m) if the league isn’t completed, $381m (£305m) if it’s completed behind closed doors, $163m (£130m) if it’s completed with fans in attendance (which no one believes will be the case). Spain’s clubs have already been given 90% of the TV money and would be forced to repay some of that — as well as not getting the final installment — if the season cannot be finished. — Sid Lowe

Major leagues impacted: 1. Bundesliga, 2. Bundesliga

Last game played: March 11
Current target date to resume: mid-May
Will season be voided? No
Financial cost to league: $800m (£640m) if no more games are played

March 7-8 was the last Bundesliga matchday in front of fans, while the final match was Borussia Moenchengladbach’s game with Cologne on March 11, which took place behind closed doors. Bundesliga chief executive Christian Seifert said the league was working on a plan to return to action behind closed doors in May, possibly May 9 or May 16. These were to be discussed at a league meeting on April 17, but that meeting has now been pushed to April 23.

The delay is to give clubs more time to prepare and also to consider the latest feedback from government health authorities.

What training plans have been set by leagues or teams?

Clubs began reopening training centres as early as two weeks ago and by Easter Monday, all Bundesliga players were back at work. Training, however, takes place under strict social distancing conditions, with players working in small groups and no physical contact.

What’s been discussed about how to return to action?

Seifert’s proposal would see players resume traditional training by the end of the month, with the remaining nine league matchdays completed by June 30. This would mean starting the league on May 23 at the latest, though the goal is May 9 or May 16.

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All games would be without fans present, though they would all be televised. The Bundesliga estimates that approximately 240 people would be present at each fixture: players, coaches, medical staff, referees, team officials, TV production crew and media. Everyone present would need to be tested every three days at a minimum, and there would be special measures in place to guarantee hygiene.

Germany has perhaps the best-resourced health system in Europe, both in terms of testing capacity and ICU facilities, and league officials are confident they can do this without impacting health care elsewhere. However, both state and federal authorities have yet to weigh in.

How bad is the financial fallout?

Seifert claims the potential damage could amount to $800m (£640m) if no more games are played. Nearly half of this is represented by the $350m (£280m) installment that domestic TV rights-holders have yet to pay to televise the matches. Should the games go ahead, this would be paid and the remaining losses would be mostly gate receipts and some ancillary revenues. — Gab Marcotti

Major leagues impacted: Serie A, Serie B

Last game played: March 9
Current target date to resume: May 31 or June 7
Will season be voided? Unclear: clubs can’t agree on whether to resume
Financial cost to league: $650-800m (£520-640m) if season is abandoned

Serie A shut down in stages as different areas of the country went into lockdown at different times. The final match under normal conditions was on March 1; the last game played behind closed doors was on March 9.

The Italian Football Association has suggested a restart for May 31 or June 7. There are 12 matchdays to go, plus eight postponed games to make up: this would likely mean ending the season in late-July. Clubs are still split on whether to return, however, with several calling for the season to be abandoned. It’s also unclear whether the league would get the green light from health authorities: the Italian FA’s medical-scientific unit were due to give their opinions on April 15.

What training plans have been set by leagues or teams?

All training facilities in Italy have to remain closed until May 3 by government decree. The Italian FA have prepared a “road map” to allow players back from May 4. Initially, they would train individually and, in the meantime, undergo a series of tests before being allowed to train in a group. Players would also reside at or near the training ground for the duration.

What’s been discussed about how to return to action?

We’ll know more this week but the initial goal is to get the players back training, and it’s not clear yet when they’ll be able to do that. The first hurdle is easing the lockdown, which won’t happen before May 3 at the earliest. The second is creating the necessary sanitary conditions at the training ground, both in terms of testing/screening and in terms of guaranteeing a safe environment in which the players can self-isolate.

Another issue is what to do with the many players currently abroad. As things stand, they would have to self-quarantine for 14 days when they return and they won’t be able to return until the lockdown is eased. Players coming back to Italy would therefore miss the first two weeks of training.

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Even if they do start playing again, continuing past June 30 presents a problem as nearly 30 percent of Serie A players either become free agents on that day or have to return to their parent clubs because they are currently on loan. Contracts would have to be unilaterally extended and this remains an unresolved legal minefield.

Clubs remain split over whether to re-start or abandon the season, likely because Italy was among the first countries to be hit and is among the hardest hit. Some would simply prefer to stop and look ahead to next season — and not just those whose clubs are threatened with relegation. One of the difficulties with abandoning the season would be how to decide promotion and relegation between the divisions. The prospect of lawsuits may mean that the easiest outcome is to increase the size of Serie A to 22 teams next season, with no relegation this year and two teams coming up from Serie B.

Another possibility is concluding the season by June 30 with some sort of reduced playoff to determine the title, European positions and relegation. This would avoid the problem of the “cliff-edge” of players who go out of contract or have to return to their parent clubs from loans on that date. One club, SPAL, would be left with just 12 players if they had to continue past June 30.

How bad is the financial fallout?

Estimates of the potential losses for an abandoned season vary from $650m to $800m (£520-640m). The final installment of TV rights money has not yet been paid and that amounts to around $270m (£215m). Some concerned broadcasters may not pay up. — Gab Marcotti

Major leagues impacted: Ligue 1, Ligue 2

Last game played: March 8
Current target date to resume: June 17
Will season be voided? Committed to finishing
Financial cost to league: $72-145m (£58-116m)

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to the nation on Monday night and decided to prolong the total lockdown until May 11, which is longer than expected. However, this now helps the French league finalise details over their plan and structure for the remaining weeks of the season. The plans call for games to take place behind closed doors.

If the continued lockdown works as planned, then Ligue 1, whose last game was on March 8, will resume June 17 with Matchday 29 just a day after Ligue 2, which will follow exactly the same plan. All other divisions (from the third on down) won’t resume, though.

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Under this revised schedule, games would be played every three days and the season would be finished by July 25, with only the Ligue 2/Ligue 1 relegation/promotion playoffs to be played, which will be completed on  Aug. 1. There is hope that stadiums could be reopened after mid-July for fans, too.

The start of the 2020-2021 season has also officially been decided and will kick off on Aug. 23, a day after Ligue 2.

What training plans have been set by leagues or teams?

Teams are expected to be back out training from Monday, May 11, in some form or another. This would give players a mini-preseason before starting the competition again and facing an intense schedule.

How bad is the financial fallout?

Canal + and BeINSport, the two domestic TV right holders, have welcomed the plan. They refused to pay the most recent installment of the TV rights money on April 5 and will do the same on June 5 due to the suspension of games. However, they will pay it all ($270m / £218m in total) once the season resumes and they can show the matches. But they could also decide to renegotiate with the objective to pay less because of he new schedule (games all played on the same day, every three days).

Overall, the loss of earnings will be huge for French clubs. They’ve all put their squads in part-time unemployment to reduce costs in the short-term, but in terms of gate revenues, sponsorship deals and  merchandising (as shops are still closed), the league estimated the shortfall could be between $72m and $145m (£58-116m) depending on the clubs. PSG, for example, will lose almost $3m (£2.5m) of revenues for each home game, while Amiens would miss out on $430,000 (£350,000). Most clubs have five remaining home matches except for Strasbourg, Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse, who have six, and Lille, Nice and Angers, who have four.

The biggest loss feared by French clubs though could be caused by a big drop of investments from foreign clubs during the transfer window. Ligue 1 is a selling league and it’s crucial for French clubs to sell well. Clubs have seen the value of their squads drop because they’ve not been playing and teams have not been scouting. The clubs believe that they could be losing around $163-217m (£130-175m) compared to a “normal” transfer window like last summer, in which French clubs generated $450m (£360m) through player sales. — Julien Laurens


Major tournaments impacted: Champions League, Europa League, European Championships

Last games played: March 11
Current target date to resume: No dates at present
Will season be voided? Uncertain
Financial cost to league: ($1.1bn) £1bn if cancelled

UEFA has already postponed Euro 2020 and moved the tournament to June/July 2021, but the desire remains for this season’s Champions League and Europa League competitions to be played to a conclusion. Both tournaments have been suspended indefinitely, with the respective finals in Istanbul and Gdansk at the end of May postponed until a yet-to-be-decided date.

UEFA president Aleksandar Ceferin admitted last month that this season will “probably be lost” if the Champions League and Europa League don’t resume before the end of June.

What’s been discussed about how to return to action?

Logistically, completing the club competitions is likely to prove incredibly difficult for UEFA due to the necessity for teams to leave their home countries and cross borders at a time when European nations are all at different stages of the coronavirus crisis. A working group involving UEFA, national associations and the European Club Association (ECA) has been set up to try to find a solution.

The round of 16 has yet to be completed in both competitions, so that is the first obstacle to be overcome. Playing the quarterfinals over 90 minutes rather than two legs is under consideration. Also being considered is whether to stage at a neutral venue or handing home advantage to the first team out of the draw.

If the competitions reach the semifinal stages, then there is a prospect of four clubs playing the semis and then the final in one city. All of the above depends on travel restrictions being lifted by individual countries.

How bad is the financial fallout?

Liverpool banked $121m (£97m) in prize money for winning the Champions League last season, but every participating club receives payment depending on how far they progress from a UEFA prize pool, which amounts to $2.1bn (£1.7bn). Unravelling that financial mess would be an issue if the Champions League is not completed. It would be a similar story in the Europa League, albeit on a much smaller scale, with the prize money in that competition totaling $552m (£442m).

UEFA also has broadcasting deals across the globe that must be honoured, with the prospect of some television companies withholding payments if fixtures are not played. Such a move would impact the prize money pots for each competition. — Mark Ogden

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