Danielle van de Donk of Arsenal celebrates scoring the second goal with teammates. Arsenal Women v Manchester City Women, FA Women's Continental Cup Semi-Final football match, Meadow Park Stadium, Borehamwood, UK - 29 Jan 2020 Photo: Kunjan Malde for The FA

How Arsenal’s Champions League participation could be impacted by Coronavirus

Arsenal’s UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-final ties against French club Paris Saint-Germain are certain to be impacted by the current Coronavirus outbreak.

The Gunners are scheduled to take on PSG at Meadow Park on 25 March before travelling to Paris for the second leg on 1 April.

With both the UK and Europe now facing a fierce battle with the Coronavirus, The Football Association have opted to suspend all elite football in England until at least 3 April, a move which includes the FA Women’s Super League, FA Women’s Championship and Women’s FA Cup. It is highly unlikely that those competitions will resume after that date.

So what will happen to Arsenal’s hopes of UEFA Women’s Champions League glory? We take a look at the possible actions to be considered by European football’s governing body UEFA.

Competition suspension

The likely action in the short term is that UEFA will suspend the competition until a later date. Arsenal’s current ties are certain to be postponed with most of Europe not considering staging matches again until well into April and beyond. UEFA announced yesterday that all of next week’s scheduled fixtures have been postponed. All 55 member associations will attend a video conference with UEFA chiefs on Tuesday to discuss the future of both domestic and European competitions. This debate could also include next year’s UEFA Women’s EURO, a tournament which will be held in England.

UEFA could review the state of play regarding the remaining UEFA Women’s Champions League ties on a regular basis. They could agree new provisional dates or the alternatives which we are about to discuss.

Behind-closed-doors

One of the initial reactions to the increase in COVID-19 cases was to suggest playing games behind closed doors.

This instruction could yet be implemented, albeit not on the scheduled dates of Arsenal’s quarter-final ties, but the longer the virus outbreak goes on and the greater the crisis becomes, the less chance this option will be used.

With players and staff being told to self-isolate at the first signs of any Coronavirus, cold or flu symptoms, the reality is that until the number of overall COVID-19 cases reduce across Europe, no fixtures will be played. It could be very much a case of ‘when the players are safe, the fans are safe’.

Do not expect a behind-closed-doors game, this won’t happen.

Deferral until the summer

UEFA look set to move the men’s UEFA EURO 2020 to next summer meaning that there will be a significant gap in the footballing calendar in June and July. The European governing body could opt to fill that void with European club football should the threat of the Coronavirus recede.

This option seems like one of the more likely outcomes, although it is highly reliant upon how Europe contains and fends off the virus.

A switch to summer could prove popular with fans who have opposed winter competition in the women’s game in recent seasons.

Cancel the tournament

Football across Europe is in crisis, it is a mess. One more erratic approach to the UEFA Women’s Champions League would be to simply draw a line under this season’s competition and cancel the tournament.

This would be hugely frustrating for Arsenal while questions would potentially be raised on whether the club would be permitted to compete in next season’s competition with Joe Montemurro’s side currently occupying third place in the FA Women’s Super League table.

Arsenal have waited a while for their chance to grace women’s club football’s elite competition once again and they would surely oppose this potential solution.

Defer until next season

Should the Coronavirus crisis rumble on for several months, a distinct possibility, UEFA could look to cancel next season’s tournament and instead, continue the 2019/2020 edition. There is currently no timescale for a return to action in a whole host of footballing competitions across Europe and there is a real chance that the start of next season will be delayed.

Should this season’s fixtures across the women’s game be played throughout next season, it will give UEFA the perfect opportunity to save this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League.

For now, we simply wait and watch the Coronavirus saga unfold. This is a dark time for Europe and a dark time for football fans. A life without football is unbearable, and its only day one.

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