May 19, 2020 / 8:02 PM / 14 days ago

Factbox: European soccer's return to action after coronavirus

BERN (Reuters) - 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:

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Burnley v AFC Bournemouth - Turf Moor, Burnley, Britain - February 22, 2020 General view of the Premier League logo on a match ball before the match REUTERS/Phil Noble

GERMANY

The Bundesliga restarted on May 16 and games were 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

Premier League clubs returned to training on Tuesday after agreeing to allow “small group” sessions to begin, with a possible return to normal ‘contact’ training next week.

Clubs have been informed that an eventual resumption of matches would see them played only at neutral venues that have been approved by health and safety standards, but they remain hopeful they can still find a way to play games on the usual home and away basis.

Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Oliver Dowden, on May 14 said the government was “opening the door” for football to return in June.

SPAIN

Clubs in Spain’s top two divisions returned to training in groups of up to 10 players on Monday. La Liga hopes to resume its season in June.

ITALY

There is still doubt over whether Serie A can restart, with government ministers, the Italian federation, the Serie A league and clubs all giving conflicting information.

Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said the government would decide on May 28 if and when the Serie A season can resume. He also announced on May 19 that teams could start full group training immediately.

Serie A clubs previously voted in favour of re-starting the season on June 13.

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 spot. Relegated Amiens 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

Armenian Premier League clubs resumed training on April 23. The country’s soccer federation said matches could resume in the second half of May or early June.

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 had a meeting on May 7 but no decision was made on whether the country’s 12-team first division, which was suspended in early March, would resume.

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 champions.

CROATIA

Croatia’s domestic season will resume with cup ties on May 30 followed by league action on June 6 pending government approval, its football association HNS said.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The top two leagues in the Czech Republic will resume on May 23. The plan is for two games to be played per week and the season to be completed by July 18.

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 season.

DENMARK

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

ESTONIA

Top-flight action in Estonia will resume 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 criticised for some of its safety guidelines, which have been described as “hazy” by one club director.

The Finnish Cup will resume on June 16.

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 football association said that the season would restart on May 23 with two cup ties and a league game.

ICELAND

The top-flight season was scheduled to kick off on April 22 and conclude 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 for 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.

Other clubs can train from June 29.

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 as to when it might resume.

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

LATVIA

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

League organisers said they would like to restart top-flight football in the country either from May 23-24 or May 30-31, but that clubs would decide the restart date among themselves.

Games will initially be held without fans present, but the league intends to seek government permission to fill stadiums at 10% capacity by June 15 and then raise capacity to 20%.

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 remainder of the top-flight season on May 18. A decision on league positions and relegation will be taken in a future meeting.

MOLDOVA

The Moldovan 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 Oleinicenco, 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.

MONTENEGRO

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.

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 June 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 4 after being halted since March due to the pandemic, the league’s organising body has said.

ROMANIA

Romania’s domestic soccer federation (FRF) is hoping the league can re-start 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 substitutions per match.

SAN MARINO

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

SCOTLAND

Celtic were declared Scottish champions for a record-equalling ninth successive season while Hearts were relegated after the clubs voted on Monday 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 seasons after the resolution was passed with a majority vote.

SERBIA

Serbia’s first and second division will resume on May 30 behind closed doors in a changed format.

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

SLOVAKIA

The Slovak League is hoping to complete the season. Teams are training, but the league says it won’t re-start before June 6 at the earliest.

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 issues 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 Football Federation and Ukraine Premier League clubs met last week to discuss how to resume the season.

The clubs have proposed restarting the season on May 30 and ending the campaign on July 19.

The federation has requested the country’s Ministry of Health to develop a protocol for a return to competition.

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.

Compiled by Brian Homewood, Phil O'Connor, Zoran Milosavljevic, Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber, Julien Pretot, Mark Glesson, Richard Martin, Angel Krasimirov, Tuvan Gumrukcu, Holger Hansen, Olzhas Auyezov, Ece Toksabay, Michele Kambas, Shrivathsa Sridhar and Hardik Vyas; Editing by London editing team and Aurora Ellis

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