With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across Europe and showing little sign of easing its vice-like grip on sport, there is a serious question regarding the UEFA Champions League and how the 2020 edition of the competition reaches a conclusion.
Europe’s premier club tournament, like so many others, has fallen foul of the current restrictions and with teams still trying to progress out of the Round of 16, this logjam has caused an almighty headache for the decision-makers at UEFA headquarters.
While not only has it caused headaches for European football’s governing body, it has also caused uncertainty as far as bookmakers are concerned and as far as an outright winner is concerned, all of the odds will be available in SBR.
While although paying out on who will win this season’s Champions League looks rather difficult, the task of how the two finalists even get to Istanbul is perhaps more pertinent and this is the issue that UEFA will need to solve.
The biggest problem they face, is not the scheduling of outstanding dates but more how those remaining ties can be played and with cross-continental travel a non-starter, it does put the status of the tournament in serious jeopardy.
One idea has been to create something more akin to the European Championships and create a ‘football festival’ in Istanbul in August. However, that may only complicate matters, as then eight teams will be based in the city rather than just two.
Of course, getting the teams to Turkey is one thing, the question of whether supporters can follow is certainly another and if the Champions League is to reach a conclusion, the likelihood is that it will be played behind closed doors.
Obviously from a spectacle point of view, this will be far removed from last year’s final in Madrid between Liverpool and Tottenham and even though this year’s potential finalists may not play in front of their supporters, there is a sense that the show must go on.
Not only because, the football fraternity want to see who the kings of Europe are but also because UEFA have a lot of money tied up in sponsorship and television rights and a failure to complete proceedings, will undoubtedly prove costly.
Another idea that has been mooted is the scrapping of two-leg knockout ties and going to a straight knockout format and although an element of sporting integrity may be lost, it could at least ease the fixture strain.
Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter what format the remainder of the Champions League takes, the wider issues will be travel as previously mentioned and testing for both the players and officials involved in any remaining fixtures.
With the Bundesliga set to resume their season within the next couple of weeks, there is some hope that other major competitions can also restart. However, there is an obvious difference and it is one that sees these on-pitch duels confined domestically.
Therefore, if the Champions League is to get going once more and eventually reach a finish, then borders will have to re-open across Europe and the logistics involved with this, is something that goes past the remit of UEFA.
This will mean a decision from the European Union and to only make matters more difficult, it seems as if the five countries with teams still in the competition are at different levels of lockdown restrictions.
There may be some lobbying from UEFA to the European Union, but ultimately any resumption of football or any sport for that matter, can only be done when it is safe and right now, safety still seems somewhat in the distance.
While with an August date mooted for the final, it also could cause an issue as far as the start of next season is scheduled to get underway and if it were to go ahead, there is the distinct possibility of finishing the Champions League during a new league campaign.
Then again, that is arguably the smallest issue that UEFA will face and that should not matter in the grand scheme of things. What does matter, is how two teams get to Istanbul and play for European club football’s most competitive prize and this is a question that no one yet has the answer to.