UEFA: Sporting Merit To Determine Qualification For European Competitions Next Season

UEFA will determine qualification for next season’s European competitions on the basis of sporting merit rather club coefficient if domestic leagues bring an early end to their seasons during the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was reached during a video conference between all 55 national associations.

In a statement, UEFA said completing seasons in their original formats remained “the ideal scenario, should the pandemic situation permit it.” If not, leagues were urged to find ways of restarting “with a different format”, which could mean play-offs being introduced in some cases.

“If a domestic competition is prematurely terminated for legitimate reasons…UEFA would require (leagues) to select clubs for the UEFA club competitions 2020/21 based on sporting merit” in the current season.

That would appear to definitively rule out any possibility of seasons being voided altogether.

Instead, national associations are left with the choice of trying to restart somehow or, if needed, calling an end to the season with current tables considered final and Champions League and Europa League places dished out on that basis.

The Spanish Football Association had suggested places be allocated on the basis of club coefficient which is used for rankings and seedings in European club competitions and is calculated over the past five years.

Such a move would have benefitted Atletico Madrid, who are currently outside the top four in La Liga, at the expense of Real Sociedad.

It would also have meant Manchester United qualifying to the Champions League at the expense of Leicester City.

However, Europe’s governing body determined that on-field performances this season up to a league being suspended should be the deciding factor.

The Premier League has nine rounds of fixtures remaining but in Spain and Italy there are still 11 and 12 rounds left respectively.

Several European leagues are contemplating different scenarios for concluding the season.

Earlier this week the Dutch football federation (KNVB) announced its intention to call an end to the season following a government decision to extend a ban on large gatherings until September because of the pandemic, which has caused more than 110,000 deaths across Europe.

Ending the Eredivisie season now would mean Ajax being declared champions although they are level on points with second-placed AZ Alkmaar with nine games still to play. AZ have won both league meetings with Ajax this season.

The Belgian Pro League is hoping to confirm next week that it will end its season, thereby declaring Club Brugge – who have Super Eagle striker Emmanuel Dennis in their ranks – champions.

The Scottish league could follow suit after a controversial resolution passed last week by the 42 member clubs to award positions on a points-per-game basis. The lower leagues have already been declared over and doing the same for the Premiership would mean Celtic being handed a ninth successive title with eight games still to play.

In contrast, the German Bundesliga is hoping to restart early next month, with games behind closed doors.