UEFA have announced new Covid-19 related regulations for the knockout stages of the Champions League and the Europa League, which will directly affect Rangers.
The biggest takeaway from the new rule changes – which have been drawn as a consequence of border closures and the ongoing pandemic around Europe – is that the Ibrox side will need permission from the Scottish government to travel outside these borders and host matches.
UEFA has announced the COVID-19-related regulations for the knockout stages of the Champions League and the Europa League.
With travel far more difficult in 2021, this is going to be crucial information.
— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) February 2, 2021
UEFA will also be reserving the right to change the fixtures to one-legged ties if required.
Described as “crucial information” by ESPN journalist Dale Johnson, he puts the regulations into layman terms in an impressive Twitter thread.
Crucially, all clubs must obtain the relevant authority’s permission to either travel out or into a country before matches are set to take place.
Clubs have until February 8th to notify UEFA if travel exemptions cannot be obtained for either the Round of 32 in the Europa League or the Champions League last 16.
If these restrictions are imposed by the nation of the home club, the home club must propose an alternative venue which could hypothetically be in a neutral country.
If they cannot do this is in the appropriate time the home club will be considered to have forfeited and lose the tie 3-0.
If restrictions are imposed by the visiting club with regards travelling or returning home, once again the home club must propose an alternative venue or risk a 3-0 forfeit.
Any disputes will be settled by the UEFA administration.
On top of this, all UEFA approved venues currently participating in European competition must do their best to ensure that their venue could be used as a neutral venue.
Clubs are free to swap the home and away legs of fixtures around or play ties at a completely neutral venue.
UEFA also reserve the right to assign that venue, reschedule both legs or even organise the match as a single-leg tie.
If a game cannot be played due to positive Covid-19 tests, or a full squad cannot be provided, then teams will forfeit the match 3-0.
The governing body have also set match deadlines in the event of rearrangement with those affecting Rangers in the Europa League as follows:
- Round of 32: 5 March 2021
- Round of 16: 2 April 2021
- Quarter-finals: 23 April 2021
- Semi-finals: 14 May 2021.
Rangers are set to play Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp in their round of 32 Europa League clash with the first leg to take place in Belgium on the 18th February with the return at Ibrox a week later (25/02).
At present all travel corridors in and out of Scotland and the rest of the UK have been suspended meaning the Gers will need both exemptions to travel to Belgium without self isolating on their return and permission to welcome Antwerp.
Antwerp have managed to find some form ahead of the clash with the club recovering from a blip and small period of upheaval.