COVID19: Cyprus football season called-off

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The Cyprus Football Association (CFA) on Friday officially ended the 2019-2020 season after being told by epidemiologists that their proposal for returning to play was in violation of COVID-19 decrees issued by the Health Ministry.

In an announcement issued on Friday, the CFA said the current protocols would not allow for teams to properly prepare for games, which could lead to players being seriously injured.

“Our main concern, which we had set as a criterion from the outset was the health of all those involved, from footballers, technical staff of teams, and other employees of teams and stadiums,” said a CFA statement on Friday.

The championship was paused on 15 March after the first COVID-19 cases were reported.

The first division was in the play-off stage with another nine rounds of fixtures to go – Omonia Nicosia and Anorthosis Famagusta were tied at the top with 46 points each, champions APOEL were six-points behind.

The CFA also noted that ending the season would allow clubs, which have seen their balance sheets go into the red, some breathing space as they will not have to maintain their squads at a time when they have no income.

Scrapping the season comes after CFA officials met President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace.

Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou and Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides were also present at the meeting on Thursday, where, according to reports, the government did not accept the CFA’s safety protocol, as it is not in line with the current health measures for coronavirus.

Following a meeting between the first division and some second division clubs, the CFA on Friday said that the non-negotiable state guidelines on health and safety meant that there was no way of allowing the completion of the season.

Deputy government spokesperson Panayiotis Sentonas, confirming that the government did not accept the CFA’s safety protocol, which differentiates from the government’s own public health guidelines regarding.

“During the meeting, the government made it clear that it would not accept any deviations from the timetables deriving from the strategy for the gradual lifting of restrictions set by the government in cooperation with the epidemiological team.”

The CFA during their meeting with President Anastasiades proposed that only players should be quarantined and monitored, instead of the entire club staff, allowing for the team to keep playing.

It had requested that teams be given permission to use indoor gyms, also in violation of Health Ministry’s decrees, as the use of indoor gyms will be allowed in the third stage of relaxing measures to be introduced from 9 June.

Calling off the season was followed by the CFA’s decision to award spots allocated to Cyprus teams for European tournaments to Omonia Nicosia (qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League), Anorthosis Famagusta, APOEL and Apollon Limassol (qualifying rounds of Europa League)

The CFA also decided to increase Division 1 teams to 14, up from the current 12.

The CFA attributed European tournament spots according to the European Football governing body’s guidelines, locking in current standings.

However, according to a source close to the CFA, the association is in disagreement on whether a championship title should be awarded.

According to the same source, AEK Larnaca and AEL Limassol are to be compensated with €50,000 each for not being able to compete for a European spot.