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UEFA announce big changes to the football calendar

UEFA has confirmed a whole host of changes to the football calendar aimed at completing this season’s European competitions before the end of August, as well as setting out dates for internationals and European games in 2020/21.

The announcement followed a video conference on Wednesday and covers everything from Futsal and junior tournaments to new competition regulations and a completely new knockout format in one venue for the remaining fixtures in the Champions League and Europa League.

It provides clarity for those sides still competing in this year’s competitions, and ensures a busy schedule for England and Wales in the autumn. The hope is that football will be able to resume at something close to its usual hectic travelling schedule.

The full announcement from UEFA can be found here but we’ve summarised the key points below.

Champions League

The quarter-finals, semi-finals and final will be played in Lisbon between 12th and 23rd August, as single knock-out fixtures. Those remaining last 16 games may be played in Portugal, or at the home team’s stadium, depending on the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic at the time.

Istanbul will now host the 2021 final, a year later than planned, with all venues that were due to host the final similarly moving back a year.

The preliminary rounds for 2020/21 will begin on 8th August, with qualifying continuing over the following six weeks until the play-offs on 22nd/23rd and 29th/30th September.

The draw for the group stage will take place on 1st October, with the fixtures being played in two sets of three consecutive weeks, beginning with the 20th/21st October through to 3rd/4th November, and then 24th/25th November through to 8th/9th December.

Europa League

The quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final will be played as single knock-out fixtures in four German cities (Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen) between 10th and 21st August.

The remaining last 16 games may be played in Germany, or at the home team’s stadium, depending on the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic at the time. Those last 16 ties where the first legs were postponed will be played as single knock-out fixtures, with venues to be confirmed.

Gdansk, which was due to host this year’s final, will now host the 2021 fixture, with all other venues similarly moving back a year.

The Europa League will follow the schedule of the Champions League, with fixtures taking place on the Thursdays of the weeks mentioned above, with the group stage draw taking place on the 2nd October.

Women’s Champions League

The final eight fixtures will be played as a knock-out tournament in northern Spain (Bilbao and San Sebastian) between 21st and 30th August.

Super Cup

The venue for the 2020 Super Cup has moved from Porto to the Puskas Arena in Budapest.

International fixtures

The October and November international breaks will now feature triple-header rather than double-header fixtures, to accommodate the postponed Euro 2020 qualifiers play-offs.

The Nations League will now be played on 3rd/4th/5th and 6th/7th/8th September; 10th/11th and 13th/14th October; 14th/15th and 17th/18th November.

Impacts?

The dates proposed will likely have a knock-on effect on domestic fixtures next season, although the precise nature of that won’t be known for a little while.

The order of priority in setting the football calendar begins with FIFA for internationals, then to confederations such as UEFA for setting continental competitions, before passing down to domestic league and cup competitions.

A report in the Times (paywall) suggests that the new dates for European fixtures next season will mean that clubs competing in the Champions and Europa Leagues won’t be able to fit in their Carabao Cup obligations, but the EFL are yet to confirm this.

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