UEFA's executive committee approved guidelines for Champions League and Europa League qualification for next season should domestic leagues not finish their 2019-20 campaigns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Following a meeting on Thursday between the European Club Association, European Leagues and FIFPRO Europe, UEFA urged countries and leagues to explore all possible options to complete their seasons while suggesting a backup plan in the event that isn't possible.
Normally, final standings are used to determine which teams qualify for the UEFA competitions. For example, the top four in the Premier League make the Champions League, and fifth and sixth place are typically in Europa League. There are cases where domestic cup final participants earn qualification to competitions as well, while the Europa League and Champions League winners automatically qualify for UCL.
If leagues can't be completed in their original format, UEFA said it would be "preferable that suspended domestic competitions would restart with a different format in a manner which would still facilitate clubs to qualify on sporting merit."
The big issue with leaving it up for the leagues to decide is teams might not have all played the same amount of games to this point in the 2019-20 season. So if Team A is in fourth place in a league with 35 games played and 60 points, while Team B is in fifth place with 34 games played and 59 points, leagues would need to be prepared as to how they would handle such a situation.
Ideally, the goal would be to complete the season, and the next logical step would be to finalize standings with all teams having played the same amount of games. If there is a situation where not all have played the same amount, perhaps leagues look into playoff matches or a points per game average to determine qualification spots. In the above example, Team A has 1.71 points per game average of 1.71, while Team B has 1.73. Tiebreakers in some leagues include goal differential and head-to-head results.
UEFA said final determination of eligible places should be confirmed by the relevant competent bodies at the domestic level. UEFA also said that it has the right to refuse or evaluate any proposal that comes from a league that had to prematurely end the season.
It remains unclear if and when the 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League seasons -- both of which are in the knockout stage -- will resume, but there is a chance domestic competitions could be completed first with.
The 2020-21 Champions League group stage is scheduled to start in September, though if the current edition is completed in August, the next edition would be expected to begin in October.