UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin says ‘my great hope is that spectators will be able to return as soon as possible. We’ll emerge stronger and wiser than before’.
The Champions League and Europa League are building up to their resumptions, with some domestic campaigns having already finished, and Ceferin discussed the work going on behind the scenes.
“These recent months have obviously been a period of great uncertainty for everyone,” he told UEFA’s official website.
“As far as my family and myself are concerned, it’s brought us even closer together.
“From a professional point of view, there’s been a lot of pressure and a great deal of hard work – but I’m happy and relieved that football is returning across Europe.
“Key stakeholders have had to sacrifice something. UEFA has sacrificed part of its season to enable the completion of ongoing domestic leagues by the end of July, with UEFA then completing its own 2019/20 club competition season in August.
“The leagues agreed to this, and the solidarity of the clubs will be equally important for the national-team window in September.
“We’ve seen a great deal of unity and solidarity between UEFA, national associations, clubs and leagues.
“That’s been a quality which you can see in the decisions taken. There’s been a real overall willingness to reach compromises.
“The associations are all facing a variety of challenges. UEFA’s relationship with them is a crucial cornerstone of our activities – they’ve always backed us in what we do, and we always support them.
“So, we’ve made an advance payment of €236.5m from UEFA’s HatTrick programme funding that they can use to offset the consequences of financial losses caused by the COVID-19 situation.
“Moreover, the associations can naturally rest assured that they will be able to count on our unfailing support in the future.”
The Slovenian had always believed in the return of football this season, so how does he see the sport in the post-pandemic age?
“I believed it from the first moment. You should always be optimistic, and if something like this crisis happens, you must have a plan ready.
“At the present time, we will be playing matches without spectators until further notice. We will not take any risks.
“We, as a governing body, have had to bear in mind that we must take care of all of football – not just UEFA’s competitions.
“Consequently, we’ve tried to lead the way in Europe, and I think we’ve done so quite successfully.
“I think the decision to postpone EURO 2020 to next year was a key moment, because it was taken at quite an early stage.
“Everybody understood that we did this to help the other stakeholders and, once more, I must underline the spirit of total unity and solidarity that was forthcoming.
“I think it’s hard to say at this stage what UEFA will learn, and what the world will learn. We’ll certainly all learn that we’re very fragile, and that a virus can actually bring the world virtually to a standstill… and that means football as well.
“But we’ll all come through this crisis, and I’m sure that we’ll emerge stronger and wiser than before. The football community has shown not just unity and solidarity, but also friendship and respect.
“We’re communicating with each other every day, and we must continue to do so in the future.
“We might have disagreements, of course, but as long as we communicate and are all ready to sacrifice something, then we’ll be on the right path.”
Fans will not be able to attend the European fixtures in Portugal and Germany, but Ceferin is confident they will be allowed back soon.
“I’m sure that it will be a great feeling… like everyone, I would feel even better if the fans were there.
“But I’m an optimistic person, and my great hope is that spectators will be able to return to our matches as soon as possible.”
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