SFA chief executive Maxwell casts doubt on plans to play Euro play-offs in June

Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell has cast serious doubt on UEFA’s provisional plan to play Euro 2021 play-offs in June this year.

Scotland’s play-off semi-final against Israel was officially postponed from March 26 following a conference call between the European governing body and the 55 member associations to discuss the suspension of football amid the coronavirus outbreak.

UEFA has rescheduled the games until early June, “subject to a review”, while postponing the tournament itself until the summer of 2021.

A statement in conjunction with representatives from European leagues, players and clubs also made a commitment to complete all domestic and European club competitions by June 30 at the latest “should the situation improve and resuming playing be appropriate and prudent enough”.

However, Maxwell believes the aim is ambitious given measures to control the spread of Covid-19.

“I think it’s difficult to envisage a situation where the current situation clears up in time for us to play games in June,” Maxwell said in a video on the SFA’s Twitter account when asked about the play-offs.

“Obviously there are a number of countries involved in the play-off, the virus is at various stages across the world and there may be some countries that see themselves coming out of that situation a little bit quicker than others.

“We will take advice from the medical teams and we will liaise with UEFA. Whether we can get the game played in June will be up for debate. We would love to think so but it’s probably unlikely at this point.”

While the time frame for a return to action becomes more apparent, the statement added that a working group composed of representatives from UEFA, leagues and clubs will be immediately established to devise solutions for either the resumption or conclusion of the season in a “coherent manner”.

Another working group will later be set up to assess and mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic.

Hampden is due to host four matches in the European Championship finals – including two Scotland group games if they qualify – and Maxwell welcomed a commitment to stage the tournament next year.

“I think it’s absolutely the right decision,” he said. “The UEFA president outlined the health of the public, supporters, players and match officials is of paramount importance.

“Given the global pandemic that we find ourselves in, arranging a tournament of such magnitude for June was never realistically going to happen.

“Obviously it is UEFA’s flagship event, we are celebrating 60 years of European football and it’s absolutely right that we do that across 12 cities as planned with spectators at every match and people can enjoy football the way it should be.

“We will be preparing for it as the other host cities will be.”

Hampden is due to host four matches
Hampden is due to host four matches

Maxwell also gave a commitment to staging the latter stages of the William Hill Scottish Cup in front of a packed Hampden. Celtic and Aberdeen are due to meet in one semi-final with Edinburgh rivals Hearts and Hibernian set to meet in the other.

The SFA did not attempt to estimate when that might be, only promising to consider future dates “when the situation becomes clearer”.

“It’s a flagship event for the Scottish FA, it means a lot to clubs, it means a lot to players, it means a lot to supporters to watch their team lift the Scottish Cup, and we want to give every supporter that can the chance to watch those games be played,” he added. “So we will look to reschedule those games as soon as possible.”