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Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on association football

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to association football (also known as soccer) across the world, mirroring its impact across all sports. Across the world and to varying degrees, leagues and competitions have been cancelled or postponed.

Club football

By 25th May, 2020 Ýokary Liga,[1][2] Belarusian Premier League and Liga Primera de Nicaragua were the only three known top flight national football leagues not suspended.[3]

Asia

In China, the 2020 Chinese Super League was postponed as a result of the virus.[4] In Hong Kong, the 2020 Lunar New Year Cup was cancelled on 23 January.[5] Other leagues in Asia were affected, including South Korea's K League 1 and Japan's J1 League.[6][7] The AFC Champions League and AFC Cup was also impacted, a number of group stage and play-off matches being postponed.[8]

According to K League of South Korea announcement, 2020 K League 1 returned on 8 May, changed from original scheduling start from 29 February.[citation needed]

In India, the remaining I-League matches were postponed and the Indian Super League final was played behind closed doors.[9]

Owing to the surge in new Covid-19 cases, the Beijing Municipal Sports Competitions Administration Centre announced on June 15, 2020, the suspension of 2020 CSL season. No new start date has been announced yet with uncertainty around the season taking place this year at all.[10]

Europe

In Europe, various knockout matches in the Champions League and Europa League were played behind closed doors in February and March 2020.[11][12] On 12 March 2020, UEFA announced that the elite qualification round of the men and women's under-17 and under-19 youth international tournaments had been postponed.[13] The following day, UEFA postponed all fixtures for the following week in the Champions League, Europa League and Youth League.[14] On 17 June UEFA announced that the Champions League and the Europa League would resume in Portugal in August.

Many of the domestic European leagues were impacted in February and March 2020. After various fixtures were rescheduled or played behind closed doors, Serie A was postponed on 9 March 2020.[15] On 12 March, La Liga and the Segunda División were suspended for at least two weeks after a Real Madrid basketball player tested positive for the virus, which resulted in Real Madrid's footballers being put in quarantine.[16] The Eredivisie was also suspended (it was officially declared abandoned on 24 April with no champion awarded),[17] while Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga followed suit shortly afterwards (Ligue 1 would eventually end on 27 April after the French Prime Minister ordered all sporting events to be cancelled until 1 September, with Paris Saint-Germain being declared champions).[18][19][20] The Bundesliga eventually returned on 16 May following the suspension of play.

On 10 March, the Premier League match between Manchester City and Arsenal, due to be played the next day, was postponed after a number of Arsenal players made close contact with Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who had tested positive for coronavirus, when the two teams had met in the Europa League 13 days earlier.[21] Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for the disease, prompting the team's Premier League match against Brighton & Hove Albion for that weekend to also be postponed.[22] As of 13 March, there has been at least one recorded case of the disease affecting a player in the aforementioned leagues; Serie A footballers Daniele Rugani and Manolo Gabbiadini, 2. Bundesliga footballer Timo Hübers, and Premier League footballer Callum Hudson-Odoi.[23][24] Rugani tested positive while being asymptomatic.[25] On 13 March, English elite football was suspended until early April, including the Premier League, English Football League, FA Women's Super League and FA Women's Championship.[26]

By 19 March, the Belarusian Premier League was the only active top flight in all 55 UEFA member associations.[27]

On 5 May 2020, Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) chief executive Neil Doncaster summarised the situation in his country during a video conference involving the Scottish Football Association, Scottish Rugby and others in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic; he stated that "gate receipts make up a far higher proportion of our income than in England, which benefits from huge TV deals, so until we get back to playing in front of crowds, our game will remain in grave peril."[28]

In June 2020, chairman of Premier League football side Tottenham Hotspur, Daniel Levy, revealed that the club has taken a loan of £175 million from the Bank of England. The chairman said that money has been taken to tackle with the gripping effects of coronavirus pandemic on the club.[29]

On June 30, 2020, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters announced 1 million pounds as aid for next seasons of Women’s Super League and Championship. to mitigate the effect of coronavirus.[30]

The Wigan Athletic club fell into administration on 1 July after being negatively affected by the pandemic lockdown.[31] By appointing Paul Stanley, Gerald Krasner and Dean Watson from Begbies Traynor, it became the first professional club in England to call up administrators since the pandemic had begun.[32]

North America

On 12 March 2020, the CONCACAF Champions League was suspended with immediate effect.[33]

The same day, Major League Soccer was suspended for 30 days.[34]

Also on 12 March, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), whose season was not scheduled to start until 18 April, canceled its preseason matches,[35] and also imposed a moratorium on team training that initially ran through 22 March.[36]

On 19 March, Major League Soccer's suspension was extended to a target return date of 10 May.[37] On 14 April, MLS announced that it was "extremely unlikely based on the guidance of federal and local public health authorities" that they would meet this target, and stated that "our goal remains to play as many games as possible, and while we currently have enough dates to play the entire season, we recognize at this time that it may become difficult to do so."[38]

The day after MLS was initially postponed, all CONCACAF competitions scheduled for the next month were suspended.[39]

The 2019–20 Major Arena Soccer League season was terminated early, effective 12 March.[40]

The USL Championship suspended the 2020 season on 12 March, for at least 30 days.[41]

The National Independent Soccer Association suspended the Spring portion of its 2019–20 season on 12 March for at least 30 days.[42] On 27 April, following a second suspension of play, NISA announced it would cancel the rest of its 2020 Spring season.[43][44]

Match week 10 of Liga MX, Women's Liga MX, and Ascenso MX took place but as of 15 March, club owners and league executives had then taken a decision to postpone all Mexican football activity until further notice.[45] As of 22 May, Mexican football executives announce the termination of the remainder of the current Clausura 2020 championship.[46]

On 10 June, Major League Soccer announced a return to action on 8 July with a mini-tournament at Walt Disney World in Florida, with all matches counting towards the regular season standings.

South America

On 12 March 2020, CONMEBOL announced that the Copa Libertadores would be temporarily suspended.[47]

On 15 March, all top-tier football in Brazil was suspended until April.[48]

Major football league resume date and will reestablish dates

○:Behind closed door □:An audience allowed within 10% of the capacity ◇:Admit audience entry

[citation needed]

An abandonment of season on major football league

[citation needed]

International football

On 13 March 2020, FIFA announced that clubs did not have to release players to their national teams during the international windows of March and April 2020, while players also had the option to decline a call-up without any consequences. FIFA also recommended that all international matches during these windows be postponed, though the final decision was left to the competition organisers or member associations for friendly matches.[49]

On 9 March 2020, the Oceania Football Confederation announced that all tournaments were postponed until May 2020.[50]

FIFA World Cup qualification

The qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, it was announced that Asian qualifier matches due to take place in March and June 2020 were postponed to later dates.[51] and the South American qualifiers due to take place in March 2020 were postponed to later dates.[52]

Olympic qualification

Play-off matches between South Korea and China in the 2020 AFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament were also postponed.[53]

Continental tournaments

On 17 March 2020, CAF announced that the 2020 African Nations Championship had been postponed to a later date due to the pandemic.[54] On 30 June CAF announced that the tournament would be held in January 2021.

Concerns were raised regarding UEFA Euro 2020, being held in twelve host cities across Europe, and the potential impact of the coronavirus on players, staff and tournament visitors.[55] UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said the organisation was confident that the situation could be dealt with, while general secretary Theodore Theodoridis stated that UEFA was maintaining contact with the World Health Organization and national governments regarding the coronavirus.[56] UEFA announced that a videoconference would be held on 17 March with representatives of its 55 member associations, along with a FIFPro representative and the boards of the European Club Association and European Leagues, to discuss the response to the outbreak for domestic and European competitions, including Euro 2020.[57] The tournament was moved by 12 months.[58] As a result, UEFA Women's Euro 2021 was similarly moved back 12 months, due to the original dates clashing with the rearranged Euro 2020 and 2020 Summer Olympics dates.[59]

On 17 March, CONMEBOL announced that the 2020 edition of Copa América was postponed to 2021.[60]

On 21 April 2020, the Oceania Football Confederation announced that due to the pandemic and the difficulty in rescheduling to another date in the FIFA International Match Calendar, the 2020 OFC Nations Cup would be cancelled.[61]

Youth tournaments

On 3 April 2020, FIFA announced that the 2020 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, scheduled to be held in Panama and Costa Rica in August, and the 2020 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, scheduled to be held in India in November, would be postponed and rescheduled.[62]

Collegiate soccer

Two National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I members announced that they had eliminated their men's soccer teams effective immediately. First, on 14 April, the University of Cincinnati shuttered its team, citing "profound challenges and widespread uncertainty" resulting from the pandemic.[63] Then, on 26 May, Appalachian State University dropped three men's teams, including soccer, "in response to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic".[64]

List of affected events

Leagues

List of affected top-flight football leagues:

Curtailed

League Country Season Start date Cancellation date Champions (if awarded) Source
Liga Panameña de Fútbol  Panama Apertura 2020 25 January 2020 17 March 2020 None [70]
New Zealand Football Championship  New Zealand 2019–20 1 November 2019 18 March 2020 Auckland City [71]
Primera División de El Salvador  El Salvador Clausura 2020 18 January 2020 20 March 2020 None [72]
Liga Nacional de Guatemala  Guatemala Clausura 2020 17 January 2020 25 March 2020 None [73]
Super League Vrouwenvoetbal  Belgium 2019–20 23 August 2019 27 March 2020 RSC Anderlecht [74]
Mauritian Premier League  Mauritius 2019–20 22 November 2019 6 April 2020 None [75]
Czech First Division (women)  Czech Republic 2019–20 17 August 2019 7 April 2020 Slavia Praha [76]
Premier League of Belize  Belize 2019–20 C 11 January 2020 18 April 2020 None [77]
I-League  India 2019–20 30 November 2019 18 April 2020 Mohun Bagan [78]
Eredivisie  Netherlands 2019–20 2 August 2019 24 April 2020 None [79]
Eredivisie Vrouwen  Netherlands 2019–20 23 August 2019 24 April 2020 None [80]
Primera División  Argentina 2019–20 26 July 2019 28 April 2020 Boca Juniors [81]
Ligue 1  France 2019–20 9 August 2019 28 April 2020 Paris Saint-Germain [82]
Division 1 Féminine  France 2019–20 24 August 2019 28 April 2020 Olympique Lyonnais [83]
Luxembourg National Division  Luxembourg 2019–20 3 August 2019 28 April 2020 None [84]
Liga Nacional  Honduras Clausura 2020 10 January 2020 29 April 2020 None [85]
Girabola  Angola 2019–20 November 2019 30 April 2020 None [86]
Gibraltar National League  Gibraltar 2019–20 12 August 2019 1 May 2020 None [87]
Guinée Championnat National  Guinea 2019–20 October 2019 1 May 2020 None [88]
Kenya Premier League  Kenya 2019–20 2019 1 May 2020 Gor Mahia [89]
Niger Premier League  Niger 2019–20 2019 4 May 2020 None [90]
Burkinabé Premier League  Burkina Faso 2019–20 16 August 2019 5 May 2020 None [91]
Congo Premier League  Republic of the Congo 2019–20 5 October 2019 5 May 2020 AS Otohô [92]
Ethiopian Premier League  Ethiopia 2019–20 November 2019 5 May 2020 None [93]
Liberian First Division  Liberia 2020 29 December 2019 4 May 2020 None [94]
Primera División (women)  Spain 2019–20 7 September 2019 6 May 2020 Barcelona [95]
Elite One  Cameroon 2020 2020 12 May 2020 PWD Bamenda [96]
Linafoot  Democratic Republic of the Congo 2019–20 15 August 2019 13 May 2020 TP Mazembe [97]
Jupiler Pro League  Belgium 2019–20 26 July 2019 15 May 2020 Club Brugge [98]
Cypriot First Division  Cyprus 2019–20 23 August 2019 15 May 2020 None [99]
Tahiti Ligue 1  Tahiti 2019–20 27 September 2019 16 May 2020 Pirae [100]
Bangladesh Premier League  Bangladesh 2020 13 February 2020 17 May 2020 None [101]
Maltese Premier League  Malta 2019–20 23 August 2019 18 May 2020 Floriana [102]
Scottish Premiership  Scotland 2019–20 3 August 2019 18 May 2020 Celtic [103]
Cymru Premier  Wales 2019–20 16 August 2019 19 May 2020 Connah's Quay Nomads [104]
Uganda Premier League  Uganda 2019–20 2019 20 May 2020 Vipers [105]
FUFA Women Super League  Uganda 2019–20 2019 20 May 2020 None [106]
GFA League First Division  The Gambia 2019–20 6 December 2019 21 May 2020 None [107]
South Sudan Football Championship  South Sudan 2020 20 February 2020 21 May 2020 None [108]
Liga MX  Mexico Clausura 2020 10 January 2020 22 May 2020 None [109]
Liga MX Femenil  Mexico Clausura 2020 4 January 2020 22 May 2020 None [109]
Rwanda Premier League  Rwanda 2019–20 4 October 2019 22 May 2020 APR [107]
FA Women's Super League  England 2019–20 7 September 2019 25 May 2020 Chelsea [110]
Togolese Championnat National  Togo 2019–20 6 October 2019 26 May 2020 ASKO Kara [111]
Lebanese Premier League  Lebanon 2019–20 20 September 2019 28 May 2020 None [112]
Premijer liga  Bosnia and Herzegovina 2019–20 20 July 2019 1 June 2020 Sarajevo [113]
Iraqi Premier League  Iraq 2019–20 18 September 2019 3 June 2020 None [114]
Macedonian First Football League  North Macedonia 2019–20 11 August 2019 4 June 2020 None [115]

Postponed

League Country Season Original schedule Postponed Resumed Source
Philippines Football League  Philippines 2020 May 2020 (start date) 13 March 2020 TBA [116]
K League 1  South Korea 2020 29 February – 4 October 2020 24 February 2020 8 May 2020 [117]
Faroe Islands Premier League  Faroe Islands 2020 8 March 2020 – 7 November 2020 8 March 2020 9 May 2020 [118]
Bundesliga  Germany 2019–20 16 August 2019 – 27 June 2020 13 March 2020 16 May 2020 [119]
Liga FPD  Costa Rica Clausura 2020 11 January 2020 – 17 or 31 May 2020 18 March 2020 19 May 2020 [120]
Meistriliiga  Estonia 2020 6 March 2020 – 7 November 2020 8 March 2020 19 May 2020 [121]
Nemzeti Bajnokság I  Hungary 2019–20 21 July 2019 – May 2020 16 March 2020 17 May 2020 [122]
Danish Superliga  Denmark 2019–20 12 July 2019 – 24 May 2020 12 March 2020 29 May 2020 [123]
Frauen-Bundesliga  Germany 2019–20 17 August 2019 – 17 May 2020 16 March 2020 29 May 2020 [124]
Ekstraklasa  Poland 2019–20 12 July 2019 – 17 May 2020 13 March 2020 29 May 2020 [125]
SuperLiga  Serbia 2019–20 19 July 2019 – May 2020 15 March 2020 30 May 2020 [126]
Ukrainian Premier League  Ukraine 2019–20 28 July 2019 – May 2020 17 March 2020 30 May 2020 [127]
Kategoria Superiore  Albania 2019–20 23 August 2019 – May 2020 12 March 2020 3 June 2020 [128]
Primeira Liga  Portugal 2019–20 9 August 2019 – 17 May 2020 12 March 2020 3 June 2020 [129]
First Professional Football League  Bulgaria 2019–20 12 July 2019 – May 2020 13 March 2020 5 June 2020 [130]
Croatian First Football League  Croatia 2019–20 19 July 2019 – May 2020 12 March 2020 6 June 2020 [131]
La Liga  Spain 2019–20 16 August 2019 – 24 May 2020 12 March 2020 11 June 2020 [132]
Liga I  Romania 2019–20 12 July 2019 – June 2020 12 March 2020 12 June 2020 [133]
Slovak First Football League  Slovakia 2019–20 20 July 2019 – 24 May 2020 12 March 2020 13 June 2020
Allsvenskan  Sweden 2020 4 April 2020 – 8 November 2020 19 March 2020 14 June 2020 [134]
Eliteserien  Norway 2020 4 April 2020 – 29 November 2020 12 March 2020 16 June 2020 [135]
Premier League  England 2019–20 9 August 2019 – 17 May 2020 13 March 2020 17 June 2020 [136]
Serie A  Italy 2019–20 24 July 2019 – 24 May 2020 9 March 2020 20 June 2020 [137]
Veikkausliiga  Finland 2020 3 April 2020 – 1 September 2020 13 March 2020 1 July 2020 [138]
J1 League  Japan 2020 21 February – 5 December 2020 25 February 2020 4 July 2020 [139]
Major League Soccer  United States and  Canada 2020 29 February – 7 November 2020 12 March 2020 8 July 2020 [140]

Tournaments

Cancelled

Tournament Host country Original schedule Cancellation date Source
2020 OFC Nations Cup  New Zealand 6–20 June 2020 21 April 2020

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