UEFA confirm Champions League return

UEFA confirm Champions League return
After a video conference meeting earlier this week, the UEFA Executive Committee ratified its plans to resume the Champions League. Following months of financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there will now be a swift and satisfactory conclusion to Europe's elite competition.

A condensed format has been signed off which will see the quarter-finalists head to Portugal for a mini tournament in August. The competition will be held over 12 days, with the first last-eight tie taking place on August 12 and the final will be contested on August 23. Istanbul was originally picked to host the final, but the Ataturk Stadium will now hold the showpiece event in 2021 instead.

All knockout matches will be played over one leg and games that are level after 90 minutes will go to extra-time and then penalties if necessary. As of yet, no decision has been made by UEFA as to whether the last-16 ties will be completed at the home team's stadium or in Portugal.

The decision to stage the mini tournament in Portugal was unanimous, although all games will be played behind closed doors to comply with social distancing rules and other protocols.

Had the Champions League been unable to resume, it would have been left with an asterisk beside it and question marks would have been placed over the competency of UEFA.

Following the announcement, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin hailed the decision for this season's competition to be given the green light to be completed.

He said: "I am delighted that we are able to resume almost all of our competitions. I am confident that we will not have to endure the fans' absence for long and they will be allowed into stadiums sooner rather than later.

"While the game has suffered huge difficulties as a result of the pandemic, those blows would have landed much harder if we had not shown leadership in those early days.

"The football community has worked together and shown tremendous unity during this unprecedented crisis. I would like to thank FIFA, our sister federations, national associations, clubs, leagues, players and the relevant authorities for their continuous support and commitment and I am convinced that we come out of this crisis stronger and with closer links than ever before."

Indeed, by resolving matters so quickly, UEFA may have won over some sceptics. Having a truncated tournament was probably the most logical solution. There could even be some surprises as some teams may fancy their chances in a one-off game.

UEFA has been bold and demonstrated excellent leadership skills.  While there were concerns they would dither, fans will be relishing watching Europe's finest duke it out.

The mini tournament will spice things up and it could inspire UEFA chiefs to re-evaluate the format of the tournament. Perhaps, it could serve as a European equivalent of the FIFA Club World Cup down the line. But what is for sure, is that all eyes will be firmly fixed on the Champions League this summer. There have been many dark days over the past few months, but brighter times lie ahead.

 

Written by Charles Perrin

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