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Curtailed French season could have been completed in August, Uefa letter reveals

Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium November 20, 2018. — Reuters pic
Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin holds a news conference in Brussels, Belgium November 20, 2018. — Reuters pic

PARIS, May 19 — An August 3 deadline to complete the suspended football season was only a recommendation and “not official”, according to a letter written by Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin amid an ongoing row over the decision to call a premature end to the campaign in France.

In a letter sent to the Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas on May 14 — revealed by French daily Le Parisien and of which AFP has obtained a copy — Ceferin explains that European football’s governing body had indeed discussed setting an August 3 deadline for countries to finish their domestic leagues.

August 3 was cited as the latest date for the top 15 European leagues, including France, to finish seasons which ground to a halt in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The date for lower-ranked competitions was July 20.

“However, we always mentioned during those meetings that these dates were recommended and tentative, not official,” Ceferin wrote.

Referring to a Uefa meeting on April 23 setting out a way forward for suspended leagues, the head of European football’s governing body emphasised that the aim was to play on wherever possible.

“Uefa’s recommendation was... clearly to encourage the national associations and leagues to do their utmost to finish the ongoing domestic championships, either in the original format or an adapted format, if necessary,” he wrote.

However, the French league (LFP) called an end to its season on April 30 with 10 rounds of matches left unplayed. 

Discontent -That was after the French government said that the season “cannot restart” and that large gatherings would remain banned until September.

Paris Saint-Germain were declared champions but Lyon were one of several clubs left deeply unhappy with the decision which denied them European qualification for next season.

Aulas has been outspoken in his rejection of what he saw as a hasty decision, insisting that a way could have been found to finish the season in August before the next campaign begins.

Meanwhile Amiens have launched legal action against the league’s decision which condemned them to relegation from Ligue 1.

Aulas has claimed that the LFP based their decision around the deadline put forward by Uefa.

The date of August 3 was indeed mentioned in the minutes of the LFP’s meeting as “an obstacle to the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season restarting when it will be possible to organise matches again”.

The LFP has nevertheless insisted that its decision was legally “solid” and “definitive”.

France is the biggest European league so far to declare the season over, although the Belgian and Scottish leagues have since followed the same lead, while the Dutch season was voided with no champion named.

In contrast, the German Bundesliga became the biggest league on the continent to restart at the weekend, amid strict heath protocols and with matches being played behind closed doors. — AFP

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