The UEFA Executive Committee has approved new regulations to deal to Covid-19 outbreaks while players are on international duty. Big teams could miss out on the tournament because of them.

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There is no doubt that some difficult decisions have to be made as there are not many international dates available in the calendar to finish the qualification. We already have six games postponed from the September dates: Azerbaijan v Moldova, Finland v Portugal, Cyprus v Scotland, Azerbaijan v Spain, Cyprus v Finland, Scotland v Portugal.

The minimum number of players to play the game is now 13 including one goalkeeper and teams can call up any eligible player at the last minute, unlike before when the list was supposed to be submitted well in  advance:

“Should a group of players of a team be placed into mandatory quarantine or self-isolation following a decision of a competent national/local authority, the match will go ahead as scheduled as long as the team has at least 13 players available (including at least one goalkeeper), irrespective of any other provision of the respective competition’s regulations (including the deadline for the submission of the list of players), provided that all players are eligible to represent the Under-21 or the relevant national team in accordance with the applicable FIFA regulations and have been tested negative as required by the UEFA Protocol.”

If one of the teams cannot get 13 players, the match should be rescheduled if possible and it could be moved to a neutral country.

“If a national association is not in a position to field a team with the above-mentioned minimum number of players (i.e. 13 including at least one goalkeeper), the match will, if possible, be rescheduled at a date to be fixed by the UEFA administration, which shall also have the power to assign it to a venue which may be in a neutral country (within the territory of a UEFA member association) if deemed appropriate.”

Then comes the hammer blow for teams when games cannot be postponed. Disciplinary sanctions will apply: If one team is declared responsible for the game not going ahead, they forfeit the game with the expected 3-0 scoreline as seen in many cases. “if the match cannot be rescheduled, the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body will take a decision on the matter. The national association that is responsible for the match not taking place or not being played in full will be declared to have forfeited the match by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body.”

If no team is found responsible for the game not going ahead at all, the result will be determinated by a lottery:[if] both or none of the teams is/are responsible for the match not taking place or not being played in full, meaning the match cannot be declared as forfeited. If the match cannot be declared as forfeited, the outcome of the match will be decided by drawing of lots (i.e. win 1-0, loss 0-1 or draw 0-0) carried out by the UEFA administration;

This would be the worse case scenario, you could end up with Belarus beating Norway, North Macedonia beating France, Estonia or Kosova beating the holders the Netherlands  or Israel beating Danemark by 1-0. The big nations have enough depth in quality to bring reserves players to make up the minimum squad number, but smaller nations might be impacted if some players are put into quarantine.

The biggest threat to the games are health authorities quarantining full teams, when no dates are available for rescheduling. It means one team will end up forfeiting the game and that threat is real, as we have seen in the men’s Champions League season 2020/21 with FC Prishtina forfeiting their game against Lincon Red Imps and also the Slovan Bratislava also forfeiting their game away to Ki Klasvik. In both case, the local health autority quarantined the whole sqaud due to positive Covid-19 cases.

Let’s hope all the games can take place and the pandemic goes away soon, as no team wants to be eliminated from the Euros, because they had to forfeit a game or were unlucky in the draw of the lots.