SPORTS NEWS | European Soccer’s Return To Action After Coronavirus

BUCHAREST | ROMANIA – Professional soccer leagues around Europe are gearing up for a return to action following the novel coronavirus stoppage, but some are more advanced than others. Here is a roundup of the state of play:

GERMANY

The Bundesliga restarted on May 16, games played without fans and with a strict health protocol in place.

The German Cup semi-finals will be played on June 9 and 10, with the final scheduled for July 4.

ENGLAND

The Premier League season will restart on June 17 with games between Aston Villa and Sheffield United, and Manchester City and Arsenal.

A full fixture list will be played on the weekend of June 19-21. All games will be played without fans in attendance.

SPAIN

Spanin’s La Liga can return to action from June 8, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on May 23.

All organized soccer in Spain was provisionally suspended on March 12 although clubs in the top two divisions have returned to group training.

La Liga has yet to officially confirm a date on which it will resume, although president Javier Tebas has said he hoped it could do so from June 11.

ITALY

Italy’s sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora said the country’s top-flight league has been given the go-ahead to restart on June 20.

The resumption of the league could be preceded by Italian Cup matches one week earlier.

FRANCE

The season was called off by the government and Paris St Germain crowned champions.

Olympique Lyonnais said they would claim damages after they were denied a European sport. Relegated Amines and Toulouse also threatened to initiate legal action.

ALBANIA

Albania’s federation said the top-flight league would begin on June 3. The Albanian Cup final will take place on Aug.2

ANDORRA

All league matches were postponed on March 8. The intention is for the season to be completed as planned.

ARMENIA

Armenia Premier League resumed on May 23.

AUSTRIA

The Austrian Bundesliga will resume on June 2 with matches played every three days.

The Austrian Cup final will be played on May 29.

AZERBAIJAN

The Azerbaijan Premier League had planned for a resumption of the competition a few weeks after the current lockdown ended. The government, however, extended the lockdown until May 31, making any return to action impossible before June.

BELARUS

Belarus was the only country in Europe playing soccer amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The country’s football federation postponed one Belarusian Premier League match scheduled on May 15, and one first division (second-tier) game scheduled on May 16 due to suspected COVID-19 cases.

BELGIUM

Belgium was the first country to cancel the rest of its season. Club Brugge were formally declared champions on May 15.

Runners-up Gent will compete in the preliminary rounds of the 2020-21 Champions League while Sporting Charleroi, Royal Antwerp and Standard Liege all qualify for the Europa League.

BOSNIA

The Bosnian Football Association hopes to resume the country’s 12-team first division no later than June 13.

BULGARIA

Bulgaria’s top division will resume on June 5 without spectators in a shortened format and end on July 11, the country’s football union said.

The Bulgarian Cup final will take place on July 4, and the following campaign will start on July 25, three days after the domestic Super Cup.

The remainder of the second division season has been cancelled, with leaders CSKA 1948 declared champion.

CROATIA

Croatia’s domestic season will resume with cup ties on May 30 followed by league action on June 5.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The top two leagues in the Czech Republic resumed on May 23. The plan is for two games to be played per week and the season to be completed by July 18. Teplice beat Slovan Liberec 2-0 in a match that included pre-kickoff temperature checks and other protective measures.

CYPRUS

Cyprus’ soccer federation has called off the season after its set of health protocols were rejected by medical experts. There will be no relegation and the top-flight league will have 14 teams next season.

Omonia Nicosia, Anorthosis Famagusta, APOEL Nicosia and Apollon Limassol will take part in European tournaments next seasons.

DENMARK

The Danish League Association (DLA) said the country’s top – flight seasons would resume on May 28 in empty stadiums and the campaign would conclude with the Europa League playoff game on July 29.

Third – placed Arhus play Randers in the first match on the league’s return and the club will allow fans to be present via the video conferencing tool Zoom, with their feed displayed on several screens that face the pitch.

ESTONIA

Top – flight action in Estonia resumed from May 19 without spectators in a shortened format. Up to 1000 fans will be allowed to attend matches from July 1.

FAROE ISLANDS

Having avoided the worst of the pandemic, the modest Faroe Islands league resumed on May 9 with games played in empty stadiums.

FINLAND

Teams have been given permission to train again, although the Finnish FA has been criticized for some of its safety guidelines, which have been described as ‘hazy’ by one club director.

The top-flight Veikkausliiga and Finnish Cup will resume in June.

GEORGIA

No restart date yet and the competition format is being reviewed by the football federation’s working group.

GIBRALTAR

Gibraltar’s Football Association has called off the season and the top three in the standings at the time of the suspension – Europa FC, St Joseph’s FC and Lincoln Red Imps FC – will qualify for Europe.

GREECE

Players from some of the 14 Greek Super League clubs started outdoor training in small groups on May 5, while following strict social distancing rules. Teams are hopeful the season can resume on June 14 pending permission from the government.

HUNGARY

The season restarted on May 23 with two cup ties and a league game. Leaders Ferencvaros beat Debrecen 2-1 in the league game played without supporters, although 5,000 cardboard cutouts of fans were placed in the seats and piped crowd noise also spiced up the atmosphere

ICLELAN

The top-flight season was scheduled to kick off an April 22 and concluded on Sept. 26. This, however, has been delayed. The league is now preparing to begin the new campaign on June 14 if possible.

IRELAND

The four teams from Ireland’s top – flight league that have qualified from European competition can return to collective training on June 8. They will compete in a four-team tournament as part of a pilot programme for soccer’s return.

ISRAEL

Top – flight soccer will resume on May 30, but fans will not be allowed into stadiums.

KAZAKHSTAN

Clubs were allowed to resume outdoor training from May 4 and the league management has said matches could resume in June if the situation is favourable. There will be fewer matches so that the season can end on schedule.

KOSOVO

The 12-team top division was suspended in mid-March and no date has been set to when it might resume.

Heads of Kosovo’s football federation met health authorities to discuss the return of soccer in the country but no decision was made.

LATIVIA

The country’s soccer federation has presented a proposal to health authorities outlining plans for a resumption of the season no later than June 15.

LITHUANIA

Clubs have been given permission to begin contact training from June 1.

The league is seeking advice from the government over the feasibility of starting the season on June 15.

LUXEMBOURG

Season abandoned. No champions or relegated teams. The top four teams at the time of the suspension qualify for Champions League/Europe League. Next season will be transitional with 16 teams in the top flight instead of 14.

MALTA

Malta’s FA cancelled the remained of the top=flight season on May 18 and Floriana have been crowned champions.

MOLDOVA

The Moldova Football Federation has been consulting clubs from the National Division on the best ways to resume training and games. The federation has not provided an approximate date for the league to resume.

The President of the Moldovan Football Federation, Leonid Oleinicerno, met with the Secretary of State for Youth and Sports, Ion Gheorghiu on May 12 to discuss ways of resuming the season, but no decision was made.

The season will net resume before July after the country’s government extended its state of emergency June 30.

MONTENEGORO

The league hopes to resume on June 1 without fans, depending on how effectively the pandemic is curbed.

NETHERLANDS

The Dutch FA called time on their season on April 24 after the government banned public events until September. No champion was declared, but it was decided the top five teams at the time of the suspension of the league would compete in next year’s European club competitions.

NORTH MACEDONIA

The country’s soccer governing body is yet to set a date for a possible return to action as it requires the health ministry’s approval.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Soccer in Northern Ireland has been suspended until at least May 31 with no indication when or if the season will resume.

Premiership clubs held a meeting on May 13 to discuss the outcome of the season but no decision was taken.

The Irish Football Association has set a deadline of July 31 for the top – flight season to finish.

NORWAY

Norway’s Minister of Culture and Sports, Abid Raja, said elite football clubs could resume training from May 7 with a view to resuming the season  from 16.

POLAND

The league has announced that it will restart on May 29.

PORTUGAL

Portugal’s top – flight soccer division will start again on June 3 after being halted since March due to the pandemic, the league’s organizing body has said.

Nine stadium have passed inspections and been declared ready to host matches.

ROMANIA

Romania’s domestic federation (FRF) is hoping the league can restart in June.

FCSB, formerly Steaua Bucharest, resumed team training in violation of the ban on outdoor gatherings and Sports Minister Ionut Stroe said they could be fined.

The second division is set to resume on July 4 and finish on Aug.5.

RUSSIA

The Russian Premier League will resume matches on June 21 and the Russian Football Union said teams will be allowed to make five substitution per match.

SAN MARINO

Training centres and sports clubs can only opened from May 31, which means there is little chance of the championship restarting.

SCOTLAND

Celtic were declared Scottish champions for a record-equaling ninth successive season while Hearts were relegated after the clubs voted on May 18 to end the Premiership season early. Hearts are considering taking legal action.

Places were decided on a points – per – game average.

The second, third and fourth tier leagues had already ended their season after the resolution was passed with a majority vote.

SERBIA

Serbia’s first and second division will resume on May 29 behind closed doors in a changed format.

The decision means the top  two tires comprising 16 clubs each will play another four rounds of matches to complete the regular season, while championships and relegation playoffs requiring an additional seven rounds were scrapped.

SLOVENIA

Slovenia’s top – flight season will resume on June 5. The Slovenian Cup semi-finals will take place on June 9 and 10.

SWEDEN

Sweden has avoided a full lockdown and many teams are already back in training. The top-flight Allsvenskan has been aiming to get underway on June 14 but the league has yet to get the green light from the nation’s Public Health Authority.

SWITZERLAND

The government has given permission for matches to restart on June 8 and teams returned to training on May 11. However, the football league said there were still numerous financial and health issue to be resolved.

The league is due to make a decision at an assembly on May 29 and a resumption before June 20 looks unlikely.

TURKEY

Turkey’s domestic league will resume from June 12 and aims to complete the season on July 26, the country’s football federation chairman Nihat Ozdemir said. Turkey also plans to host the Champions League final in August.

UKRAINE

The Ukraine Premier League will get under way with three matches on May 30. The following day, leaders Shakhtar Donetsk face third-placed Dynamo Kiev.

WALES

The Wales FA called off the remainder of the season on May 19 and Connah’s Quay Nomads were crowned champions of the Cymru Premier League.


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