UEFA rules out league cancellations due to virus, opens door for playoff format

Could EFL teams really boycott games if the leagues return? (2:15)

Former Coventry City MD Chris Anderson explains the financial crisis currently faced by lower league clubs. (2:15)

UEFA have effectively ruled out the possibility of European leagues being deemed null and void and said that qualification for next season's European competitions can only be "based on sporting merit in the 2019-20 domestic competitions."

The governing body also urged associations to try and resolve the issue of Champions League and Europa League qualification using a playoff system, should the coronavirus crisis prevent seasons being played to their natural conclusion.

- Stream new episodes of ESPN FC Monday-Friday on ESPN+
- Stream every episode of 30 for 30: Soccer Stories on ESPN+
- ESPN's Insider Notebook: Arsenal in the UCL? Forget it

Following a meeting of UEFA's executive committee via video conference, which included the input from the European Leagues, European Club Association and FIFPRO Europe, the governing body reiterated its determination to see the 2019-20 season completed on the pitch.

But with issues such as testing for coronavirus and cross-border travel making it impossible for the vast majority of national associations to set a date for a return to competitive action, playoffs may yet be the fairest way to decide European qualification for next season.

In doing so, UEFA has made it clear that it remains committed to qualification being based on sporting merit rather than alternative means, such as club co-efficient.

If a league is cancelled, then the national association must devise a procedure for selecting clubs "based on objective, transparent and non-discriminatory principles," which may see standings deciding on points per game, or the table taken as it stood when football was paused across Europe.

UEFA said in a statement: "UEFA urges national associations and leagues to explore all possible options to play all top domestic competitions giving access to UEFA club competitions to their natural conclusion.

"However, UEFA stresses that the health of players, spectators and all those involved in football as well as the public at large must remain the primary concern at this time.

"The ideal scenario, should the pandemic situation permit it, is to have the currently suspended domestic competitions completed enabling football clubs to qualify for UEFA club competitions on sporting merit in their original format.

"Should this outcome not be possible, in particular due to calendar issues, it would be preferable that suspended domestic competitions would restart with a different format in a manner which would still facilitate clubs to qualify on sporting merit."

UEFA's announcement comes amid reports that the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A are eyeing dates on the calendar. German Football League (DFL) chief executive Christian Seifert said on Thursday that he hopes matches can return on May 9 despite government orders that rule out large crowds until October. Italy's football assosication released a statement on Thursday saying it is poised to extend Serie A's timeframe to complete the season by August 2.

Meanwhile, UEFA confirmed that this summer's postponed European Championship will continue to be known as Euro 2020, despite it being played in June and July 2021.