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Champions League qualification will be decided on sporting merit if season can’t be finished

UEFA have opened the door for the Premier League season to be completed without another ball being kicked.

European football’s governing body gave the green light on Thursday for Champions League and Europa League qualification to be settled in the event that a campaign cannot be finished.

While UEFA prefers seasons to be played out, if that is not possible they want each nation to select qualifying clubs ‘based on sporting merit in the 2019-20 domestic competitions.’    

Thursday’s big video conference meeting was led by UEFA’s president Aleksander Ceferin

If season can't be finished, Man United, Arsenal and Spurs will miss out on Champions League

 If season can’t be finished, Man United, Arsenal and Spurs will miss out on Champions League

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side would miss out due to their points-per-game ratio being too low

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side would miss out due to their points-per-game ratio being too low 

Choosing a mechanism would be up to each nation. However, it is most likely that clubs would have a points-per-game figure worked out, which would then be used to calculate who qualifies.

UEFA say whichever procedure is chosen should be ‘based on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principles’.

They added: ‘National associations and Leagues should otherwise have the ability to decide the final positions in their domestic competitions, having regard to the specific circumstances of each competition.’ 

While the Premier League remain committed to completing the season, UEFA have removed a key barrier to it finishing with no further play — although the legal and commercial issues with television companies remain.

UEFA added that it may refuse admission to clubs from a domestic competition which has not been terminated for the reasons they outline. They say that national associations may have legitimate reasons to end seasons early, where governments forbid the return of sporting events which ‘would make it impossible to complete the current season in good time before the next season starts’.

They also list ‘insurmountable economic problems’ as a legitimate reason for termination.     

Here's how the Premier League table would look based on points won per game played

Here’s how the Premier League table would look based on points won per game played

The move may go some way towards removing the prospect of the season being made null and void. However, there could still be a scenario where European qualification is decided, but no champions are named and no clubs are relegated. Another mechanism could involve one-off play-off matches to determine the European positions.

Meanwhile, UEFA confirmed that the European Championship — put back to next summer — will still be known as Euro 2020.

The move has been made for a number of reasons, not least the desire to avoid the unnecessary waste a name change would trigger given the vast amounts of merchandise that has already been produced.

How to deal with next season's Champions League qualification was a big issue for UEFA

How to deal with next season’s Champions League qualification was a big issue for UEFA

UEFA’s decision would see Manchester United and Sheffield United take the Europa League places, while Arsenal and Tottenham would miss out on European football entirely if the current Premier League season is unable to be completed. 

As it stands, the two north London sides sit eighth and ninth respectively in the top-flight table, but they would be flipped around on a points-per-game measure, with Arsenal having played one less game.

That means the Gunners, on UEFA’s potential plan, would leapfrog Spurs and finish above them for the first time in four years.

Above them, meanwhile, the decision would be excellent news for Sheffield United amid their stunning first season back in the top flight. 

They are below Wolves in the current Premier League standings, but having played a game less their points-per-game tally is slightly better, meaning they would move up to sixth and therefore secure a place in next season’s Europa League.

And they have decided that next season's European places will be decided on 'sporting merit'

 And they have decided that next season’s European places will be decided on ‘sporting merit’

It remains to be seen who will qualify for the Europa League as winners of the FA Cup if the competition cannot be finished. Wolves are the next highest-ranked team who would not qualify for European competitions if the points-per-game table is used, so they may still qualify if the oldest club cup competition in the world is not completed. 

Other than that, the Premier League table would remain the same, with Bournemouth, Norwich and Aston Villa still occupying the relegation places. 

It is also important to note that things could yet change further in UEFA’s plan if Manchester City’s European ban is upheld.

That would cause a ripple-down effect that would see Manchester United awarded a place in the Champions League, while Wolves would be bumped up to join Sheffield United in the Europa League. 

UEFA’s plan would not just impact the Premier League, but also the other top European divisions.

In the Bundesliga, where they plan to restart the season on May 9, all of the teams in the top half of the division have played the same amount of games, meaning the standings would remain the same.

Therefore, if the season is unable to be completed in Germany, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach would take the country’s top four spots and a place in next season’s Champions League. 

In Italy’s Serie A, some top teams have played fewer games than others, but the positions would remain the same if a points-per-game tally was applied.

Football stadiums, including Napoli's Stadio San Paolo (above), remain locked down

Football stadiums, including Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo (above), remain locked down

That means that Lazio would be a surprise qualifier for next season’s Champions League alongside table-toppers Juventus, Inter Milan and Atalanta if UEFA’s plan is put in place and the season doesn’t finish.

Roma and Napoli would be put into the Europa League, a decision that would likely disappoint both given they still had games to turn their season around and secure a place in Europe’s premier competition.

It would be even worse for AC Milan, who would miss out on European football altogether with UEFA’s plan. 

Thursday’s meeting of UEFA’s executive committee was led by president Alexander Ceferin and held via a videoconference from 9am.

Plenty of big decisions had previously been made by the committee, such as the postponement of Euro 2020, so it was always expected that more tough calls would be made this week.

The first strand of business was already decided during a preliminary meeting on Tuesday, which included the general secretaries of UEFA’s 55 member states.    

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