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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Playing behind closed doors better than not playing at all, says UEFA president Ceferin

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La Liga and Ligue 1 have taken steps towards being able to resume playing and the UEFA chief believes compromises will have to be accepted

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says playing football matches behind closed doors would help bring a sense of normality back into fans’ lives – and would be better than not playing at all.

With league and cup competitions around Europe unresolved and millions of people stuck at home, there is plenty of desire among the sport’s governing bodies to find a way to get matches back on people’s television screens.

On Monday, La Liga clubs were given permission to return to training as long as they follow distancing guidelines, while Ligue 1 has announced plans to resume play in mid-June.

Many obstacles will have to be overcome even to stage games without fans but, with stadiums unlikely to be opened to the public any time soon, Ceferin believes such compromises will be worth making.

“The priority is the health of fans, players and managers,” Ceferin told the Corriere della Sera.

“I am an optimist by nature, I believe there are options that can allow us to start tournaments and complete them.

“We may have to play without spectators, but I think the most important thing is playing games.

“In such hard times it would bring people happiness and a certain sense of normality even if the matches will only be on TV.”

Ceferin admits the experience of watching a top-level match without the atmosphere created by supporters is a strange one to get used to.

“At first, yes, but it’s better to play without spectators than not to do it at all,” he said.

“Football would bring back emotions and joy to the homes of fans who desperately need it.”

Some sports have decided to end their seasons early, but UEFA have been clear they don’t feel such measures are necessary at this point.

There had also been rumours that deadlines for the finals of the Champions League and Europa League meant neither competition was likely to be finished, but Ceferin says this is not the case.

“There is no deadline for the cup finals. It all depends on when we start playing again,” he added.

“It is early to say that we cannot complete the season. The impact would be terrible for clubs and leagues.

“We can finish, but we must respect the decisions of the authorities and wait for permission to return to play.”

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