Clubs could be disqualified from European competition next season if national governments impose travel restrictions that impact the staging of a tie across the continent.
The coronavirus crisis has forced many countries – including the UK, most recently with Spain – to impose travel restrictions, with anyone returning to the UK from such a country forced to self-isolate for 14 days.
In light of the ever-changing situation, UEFA have published a number of new protocols regarding competition for next season, including the potential forfeiting of games and expulsion of teams if certain stipulations cannot be fulfilled.
The most notable is that UEFA can disqualify clubs who cannot provide a solution – which includes playing at a neutral venue in a different country – to combat potential travel rules in order to stage a game.
UEFA will hold the qualifying draws for the Champions League and Europa League next season taking into consideration known travel restrictions between countries, such as border closures and quarantine requirements.
If a country places restrictions which make the tie ‘impossible’, it is forfeited.
In the same situation, if the governments of both said countries banned travel between the countries after the draw deadline, both are held ‘responsible’ and UEFA can potentially disqualify both clubs from the the competition.
If COVID-19 restrictions affect a visiting club, the home club must propose a suitable alternative venue which may be in a neutral country and if the home club fails to propose such a venue, the visiting club may be awarded a 3-0 victory.
The same applies the other way round though: if restrictions of a visiting club’s own national/local authority prevent them from traveling, the home club must propose a suitable venue which the away club is able to access – or UEFA appoints – and again if either club refuses, the other may be awarded a 3-0 win.
Also for this season, UEFA have made a late change to the way in which suspensions arising from the accumulation of yellow cards is enforced.
All accumulative yellow cards will now expire on completion of the round-of-16, rather than after the quarter-finals.
This is due to this season’s quarter-finals and semi-finals being one-legged and as such, cards are still wiped two games before the final.