It was 4:12 p.m. on Friday when the last Europe's five
major leagues shut down.
Just six hours earlier, the Bundesliga announced that it was going ahead with the weekend slate of games to be played behind closed doors. Among them: the famous Revierderby, Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04.
Before the postponement, Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge defended the decision to play, citing financial reasons.
“At the end of the day, it’s about finances and the big outstanding TV payments to the clubs,” Rummenigge told German broadcasting network DW Sports.
The postponement until April 2 came hours before Mainz was supposed to host RB Leipzig. Hannover's game against Dresden had already been cancelled after two Hannover players tested positive for the coronavirus. Paderborn's Luca Kilian was also diagnosed with the virus.
"The goal is still to end the season by the summer," the German league said in a statement. "From a sporting point of view, but especially because an early end of the season could have existential consequences for some clubs.
England's Premier League and France's Ligue 1 confirmed
that they would not go ahead with weekend play though the National League -- the fifth tier of English pro soccer -- plans on playing this weekend in its three divisions.
The wave of postponements is likely to have a cascade of effects.
The priority of Europe's big five leagues is to finish the 2019-20 season. The drop-dead date looks to be June 30 (when the current terms of player contracts expire). And leagues are looking at May 15 as the date by which they hope to be able to resume play and get their current season schedules (league and cup) in.
UEFA is scheduled to meet on Tuesday with its member associations, the European Club Association and FIFpro, the international players’ union, via teleconference to discuss plans for 2020 and 2021.
Among the possibilities:
-- Finish the 2020 Champions League and Europa League seasons, going to a single-game knockout system in the quarterfinals and perhaps holding the semifinals and final as a single-venue final four.
-- Move the 2020 European Championship, slated to be played in 12 different countries, to 2021. A possible conflict: FIFA's new 24-team Club World Cup, scheduled to be played June-17-July 4 in China. UEFA would face huge financial costs for postponing the tournament. One former UEFA organizer told the New York Times a postponement was a "nightmare scenario."
-- If UEFA postponed the Men's European Championship to 2021, move the 2021 Women's European Championship to 2022. (A June-July tournament wouldn't conflict with the World Cup in Qatar because it's scheduled to be played in the late fall.)
The only major European league that played on Friday was Turkey's Super Lig, where games are scheduled through Monday.
Photo: German Football League