UEFA have approved a new set of rules to “guarantee as much as possible the start and continuity of the qualifying phase and play-offs of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League and 2020/21 UEFA Europa League”.
The football felt the new rules were “justified by the current environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic and in particular, the various travel restrictions which have been imposed across the continent due to the persistence of the sanitary crisis.”
Tottenham will begin their Europa League journey next month in the second qualifying round, which takes place on September 17. The draw for the round takes place on August 31.
Jose Mourinho‘s men would need to win that match, a third round qualifier and then a play-off match to earn qualification to the group stages. All three games would consist of a single leg.
The new rules suggest is that ahead of each draw, all existing travel restrictions from authorities must be known and alternate arrangements made, such as a change in location.
However, the problem lies in a new rule that suggests that if a home team’s country restricts travel from the country of the visiting team after the draw has been made then the home team must forfeit the game.
Most draws take place two weeks before the matches but for the third qualifying round it takes place on September 1 with the game to be played on September 24, meaning more than three weeks for the landscape to alter.
The UEFA rule states: “Restrictions imposed by the national/local authorities of either club in a tie after the deadline for the clubs to inform the UEFA administration in accordance with paragraph I.1.1 shall, in principle, not be taken into account.
“In such cases, the club whose national/local authorities have imposed restrictions preventing the match from taking place as scheduled will be held responsible and the match will be declared by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body to be forfeited by such club, which will be considered to have lost it 3-0.”
The rule could of course work in Tottenham’s favour should they be the visiting team banned from travelling if a second wave hit the UK.
However, it certainly raises the bizarre scenario that a team from a country with a rise in Covid-19 problems would be granted a bye to the next round while the team from the country in a better position would be punished and removed from the competition.