By Brian Homewood
BERN (Reuters) - European football clubs have been told by their umbrella organisation that they face an "existential threat" over the standstill caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter seen by Reuters, the European Club Association (ECA) also confirmed to its 200-plus members that discussions are taking place at relaxing the break-even rules known as Financial Fair Play (FFP) due to the situation.
Domestic football around the continent has been suspended, possibly for months, and European club finals postponed in the wake of the pandemic.
"We are all football executives responsible for the well-being and sustainability of the clubs we manage, which are faced with a real existential threat," ECA chairman Andre Agnelli, who is president of Serie A champions Juventus, said in the letter.
"As football is now at a standstill, so are our revenue flows on which we are dependent to pay our players, staff and other operating costs," added Agnelli, who is in self-isolation in Turin after three Juventus players were among those to test positive for the virus.
"No one is immune and timing is of the essence. Meeting our concerns will be the biggest challenge our game and industry has ever faced."
Agnelli said that the ECA was defining realistic strategies to "resume playing football at domestic and European levels" as well as ways "to help manage club financials in this time of social and economic crisis."
He said that European soccer body UEFA was weighing up health, financial and economic challenges in "defining a possible new model for the calendar."
"Discussions are very active as to what the approach to the UEFA licensing and FFP framework should be in light of the current crisis," he added.
The FFP regulations were introduced in 2011 to stop clubs running up big losses buying players and to ensure sponsorships are genuine commercial deals based on real market value.
In one of the most high-profile cases, Manchester City were banned for two seasons for breaking the rules. The club has denied wrongdoing and appealed.
Licensing rules deal with a host of criteria ranging from stadium conditions, medical and media facilities which clubs must fulfil to be able to play in European competition.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)