European leagues are all over the map as far as
ideas and preferences for finishing the 2019-20 seasons on hold since March because of lock-down measures imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Belgium and Scotland want to be done with their seasons as soon as possible and are awaiting the green light from UEFA, whose executive committee meets on Thursday.
Europe's big leagues want to wait as long as possible to complete the season because they have lots of TV money on the line.
Germany moved closer to resuming as early as on May 9 when the powerful state leaders from Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia on Monday gave support for the idea of playing "ghost games," letting the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga resume behind closed doors. Germany also happens to be further along than most other European countries in terms of slowly allowing non-essential businesses to reopen.
But any plan to return in May or June or any time in the summer to finish the 2019-20 season is at the mercy of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Jean-Michael Aulas, the influential president of French club Lyon, is pushing an alternative: wait until the fall to finish the 2019-20 Ligue 1 season, break until winter and then move the league schedule to a calendar year.
His main argument: It might be the only alternative to not shutting the season down completely. And he bases it on the severity of the virus in France, where more than 20,000 people have died, at a rate higher than any country in the world except Belgium, Spain and Italy.
"The government wants to reopen business," he told Paris newspaper L'Equipe on Tuesday. "What about pro sports? From a psychological standpoint, it's important that sports resume, but not at any price. The pandemic is severe, and there are no tools yet, no vaccine, no medications, to stop it."
Ligue 1 -- the French league -- has proposed restarting the 2019-20 season, which has 10 games to play, on June 17 and ending it July 25. The 2020-21 season would then kick off on Aug. 23.
Aulas, whose OL Groupe bought the NWSL's Reign FC, says that is way too soon -- with or without fans in the stands. And he points to reservations players, coaches and team doctors have about playing even behind closed doors in the near future.
"If those actors most impacted have reservations," he said, "then those reservations have to be addressed before play can resume."
He supports the proposal first put forward by Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere and backed by PSG's Nasser Al-Khelaifi:
-- Begin training in July;
-- Resume league play in mid-August or early September;
-- Finish the 2019-20 season in October-November;
-- Start the 2021 season in February;
-- Break in June for the European Championship;
-- Finish the 2021 season in November.
Aulas says FIFA likes this idea because it will also work for 2022, solving the problem of the break caused by the World Cup being played in Qatar Nov. 21-Dec. 18.
But he admits it will only work for France and elsewhere if it gets the blessing of UEFA, which has own competitions to worry about -- the Champions League and Europa League, which were both halted in the round of 16 when play shut down in March. (UEFA might resume these two competitions in July and finish up with the finals in August.)
For any extended break, Ligue 1 clubs will have to solve their cash-flow problem. A crisis committee of French club presidents, among them Aulas, Rivere and Al-Khelaifi, was formed to deal with the league's TV's partners. BeIN Sports (of which Al-Khelaifi is also president) and Canal-Plus withheld the final payment due in April.
Ligue 1 clubs also need a bridge loan to ease their financial burden. The French league has been negotiating with private equity funds in the United States on securing a loan in the neighborhood of $250 million.