KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Aleksander Ceferin has defended the staging, amid the Covid-19 crisis, of the UEFA Super Cup in which Bayern Munich beat Sevilla 2-1 in Budapest.

Concerns had been expressed about the health and infection risks undertaken by the European football federation in staging its traditional club season curtain-raiser before a limited number of fans in the Hungarian capital.

However Ceferin, following an executive committee meeting, insisted that all necessary health precautions had been undertaken and pointed to many European countries which had begun allowing fans back into their stadia.

Aleksander Ceferin . . . UEFA's pilot project leader

He said: “We will have 16,000 people in the stadium. The measures are strict and there’s no question of health risks for the fans. The easiest thing for us would be not to do anything but then, while you don’t mistakes, nothing moves [forward] either.

“We want to bring hope. We want to do what we think is appropriate.”

Ceferin pointed to around two dozen countries, including France, Germany and Italy, which were permitting fans back into the stadia in varying and regulated numbers.

Financial price

He said: “Fans and players are the essential part of football. We [UEFA] are just accompanying persons. We’re not doing this for money because for us this [match] only means costs.

“We will take care of health. We are working day and night on that.”

The outcome of the pilot would be analysed by UEFA and the Hungarian government.

Ceferin added: “It’s not us who decides to have spectators in the stadium. It’s up to the governments. We will assess the situation [in Budapest] with the government.

“We trust the governments around Europe.”

On other issues the UEFA exco agreed to activate the five substitutions option in European club competitions and to stage next year’s congress in Switzerland, not in Minsk, Belarus, as scheduled.

UEFA exco decisions:

** Two triple-headers approved for 2021 March and September national team windows

** Five substitutions allowed for 2020-21 club and national team competitions

— The UEFA Executive Committee today decided, after an agreement with the European Club Association and the European Leagues, to recover the dates lost due to the cancellation of the March 2020 window and the postponement of EURO 2020 to the summer of 2021, by extending the March and September 2021 windows in the FIFA international match calendar so that three matches instead of two could be accommodated.

This solution has already been implemented, with FIFA’s approval, for the international windows of October and November 2020.

The calendar for European national team matches will therefore now be as follows, pending FIFA’s approval.

22-31 March 2021 3 dates
31 May – 8 June 2021 EURO preparation friendly matches
30 August – 8 September 2021 3 dates
4-12 October 2021 2 dates
8-16 November 2021 2 dates
21-29 March 2022 2 dates for the European Qualifiers play-offs

The UEFA Nations League Finals will be played on 6-7 October 2021 for the two semi-finals, whereas the final and third-place match will take place on 10 October 2021. Three associations of group 1 have declared their interest to host the finals (Italy, Netherlands and Poland).

Five substitutions

The UEFA Executive Committee also decided to allow up to five substitutions for all matches played in the UEFA Nations League group phase, the European Qualifiers play-offs, the UEFA Women’s EURO Qualifiers, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Women’s Champions League, for the remainder of the season, in order to alleviate the burden on players caused by the condensed international match calendars 2020/21 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Consequently, the number of players allowed on the match sheet will be increased to 23, when this is not already the case.

Fixture list procedure for European Qualifiers

The procedure to be used in December 2020 to establish the European Qualifiers fixtures for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was ratified taking into account a variety of elements, including winter venues, travel distance, home-and-away sequence and the number of teams per group, amongst others.

Special measures for European play-off matches

Special measures regulating to the play-off matches, which are crucial to complete the field of participants of the UEFA EURO 2020 final tournament, were approved in light of Covid-19 and similarly to what has already been approved for other competitions.

UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League regulations

The Executive Committee approved special rules for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League with regards to the organisation of matches in the light of COVID-19.

UEFA Women’s Champions League regulations

Following the decision taken by the UEFA Executive Committee on 15 September 2020 to change the format and calendar of the 2020/21 UEFA Women’s Champions League, the competition regulations have been revised accordingly and special rules have been introduced to clarify the process, consequences and responsibility with regard to the organisation of matches in case of travel restrictions and in case of positive COVID-19 tests.

New format for UEFA Youth League

A new format was approved for the 2020/21 UEFA Youth League due to existing difficulties to organise the competition and the reluctance for minor players to travel in the current context.

The competition will feature straight knock-out matches from the Round of 64.

The competition will start in March 2021 with final details to be approved by the UEFA Executive Committee in due course.

UEFA corporate events to take place in Switzerland

The Committee also decided that all corporate UEFA meetings in the next six months will be hosted in Switzerland due to the current restrictions and in order to reduce the organisational burden on the organisation’s operations.

Consequently, the UEFA Executive Committee meetings of December 2020 and March 2021 will be held in Switzerland, and the Ordinary UEFA Congress of March 2021 will also be moved to Switzerland.